Posts Categorised: Essay
“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded . . . and every winged bird . . .” — Genesis 1:21
Why did God create animals? Merely a modest observation of the most common of life’s creatures brings about a thought-provoking question: do animals have a purpose, or do they simply eat and sleep and simply exist for the sake of existing? Consider the jellyfish: a literal blob—99% water and no brains. What kind of statement could the Creator possibly attempt to make through such a meaningless mass of nothing?
You can’t help but observe the common squirrel or farm pig and declare, “What a life!” Their daily routine consists of nothing significant or fulfilling. What was the purpose of God creating any animals at all? By simply taking a detailed look at some of the creatures humans work closely with, this seemingly-pointless aspect of creation readily becomes one of God’s greatest accomplishments.
. . .
There are no species of animals in history that have aided humanity more than the dog. Commonly referred to as “man’s best friend,” dogs have been available in times of tragedy and times of comfort. They were first used by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Assyrians in the B.C. era. These various groups recognized dogs’ advantageous abilities in warfare and placed them as forward attacking fighters. During the American Revolution, many troops (including General Washington) used dogs as companions and bodyguards.
But more recently, dogs have been called upon for a special kind of work unique to their species. K9 units have been utilized extensively in narcotics and bomb detection, or even just as patrol dogs in prisons or high-security areas. They’ve also aided wildlife and conservation officers in the detection of illegal hunting and fishing. Their sense of smell—which is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s—and their ability to react only as they’ve been trained makes dogs an invaluable asset for police work. Even their presence alone can prevent physical confrontations. Seeing-eye dogs are yet another example of their usefulness. Though a dog’s vision is less superior to a human’s, their sense of direction and their defensive abilities greatly aid a blind person in their day-to-day routine. Simple actions like crossing the road and maneuvering around the grocery store become possible only through the loyalty and keen attention of a well-trained canine.
And the wages for all their irreplaceable help? $0. Give them sufficient food and care and man’s best friend quickly becomes man’s best ally. Besides being used for reconnaissance, police work, security, and guiding the blind, dogs are ultimately the perfect companion, especially for the lonely and depressed. Many classics such as “Lassie,” “Old Yeller,” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” depict the need boys young and old have for dogs. Dogs stand by you, protect you, love you, lick your wounds—and they do all this without ever doubting, a testament to their impeccable companionship. Many of us could never be that way.
. . .
The true reason why animals are so well-loved and valued is because they fulfill a need in us. Animals are loyal, patient, kind, and affectionate. They don’t talk back. They don’t offend you. People will hurt you throughout your life; animals will not, at least not intentionally.
Biblically, animals are used to importantly illustrate examples and convey inspiration for Godly living. In Isaiah, we are compared to sheep—“All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God uses sheep, one of the least-intelligent animals on the planet, to convey our utter weakness and lack of judgment. The ant is used as an illustration of working hard, persevering, and not being lazy: “Go to the ant, sluggard.” Ants are very efficient workers who toil together as a team not for the benefit of the individual, but for the whole colony.
Was it not a large fish that was influential in the lesson taught to Jonah? Was it not a ram that was offered to Abraham as a substitute for Isaac? Did Jesus not pick a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem? Did God not also use a talking donkey to teach Balaam a lesson?
So why did God create animals? The ultimate answer: to show us his handiwork. I believe the very reason God placed countless species of creatures great and small on this earth was to display his vast creativity. God shows his magnificence to us through the magnificence of his creation. The fact that animals exist in such variety and vast dimension points to the brilliance of a sovereign Creator who has dominion over all living things. How truly privileged we are to live in a world filled with so much of God’s splendor. And we have the remarkable animal kingdom to remind us each and every day of that immeasurable splendor.
John Ronald Ruel Tolkien is perhaps the 20th century’s most influential writers, a man who defined the literary fantasy genre. Like any writer, exceptional or common, his inspiration for his “Lord of the Rings” epic was derived from many places and people throughout his life.
While enrolled at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, England, Tolkien became close with three beloved friends who called themselves the “Tea Club and Barrovian Society.” It was this group of four friends—akin to four hobbit companions—who sought to conquer the world through poems of fantasy as from the venerable times of old. In December of 1914, the four friends called a meeting which they entitled the “Council of London.” It was at this council of literary aficionados that Tolkien had a revelation, a revelation in which Middle-earth was spawned.
In this expansive world of Middle-earth, Tolkien crafted rich histories for the various ethnic groups and races, many of which tapped into our real-world cultures and histories. One such region of Middle-earth is Rohan, home of the horse lords. The culture and fair-haired people bear very Celtic nuances and were inspired from the Anglo-Saxon race. Prior to World War I, Tolkien was a member of the King Edward’s Horse Battalion. Tasked with breaking in new horses, this position gave him an immense understanding and a deep appreciation for them. When the time came to populate Middle-earth, the esteemed horse masters played a pivotal role in the battle against Sauron.
But Rohan symbolized a deep-seeded desire in Tolkien’s life. A keen student of history, Tolkien asserted that if the Saxons had established a cavalry during the struggle against the Normans (and in particular the Battle of Hastings), then the English most likely would have driven the Normans back to their country and emerged victorious. Thus the major French influence that took hold of Great Britain, a merging Tolkien considered an outright disgrace, would have never occurred. Suddenly Rohan becomes the image of nobility and splendor that Tolkien strongly thought belonged to the Saxons.
The Shire, meanwhile, contains many characteristics of Ireland—lush, green, rolling hills, and a race of tranquil people whose speech is markedly similar to the Irish. The dwarves on the other hand (Middle-earth’s most daring, bold, battle-hardened race) embody the Scotts—rough, tenacious, often slovenly, beards down to their waist. In battle they bring to mind images of William Wallace’s struggle against English domination.
Tolkien was an avid student of Latin and Greek. During his undergraduate years at King Edward’s, he came into possession of Charles Eliot’s “Finnish Grammar.” Coupled with his attraction to the Welsh dialect, these languages served as the basis for the Elvish language. In the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien provides an account of the loving relationship between Berén and Luthien, an Elf who relinquished her immortality for a mortal. Berén beholds the elf dancing in a forest glade, and he immediately concludes that she is the most beautiful thing his eyes have ever beheld.
This fictional story was largely inspired from Tolkien’s marriage to Edith Bratt, a woman who received more love and adoration from Tolkien than anything else in his life. Before their marriage, Edith took Tolkien into a forest where she sang and danced for him. This beautiful image stuck with the author for the rest of his life, and served as the basis for one of Middle-earth’s most passionate romances. When Edith died, Tolkien had “Luthien” engraved on her tombstone.
By 1914 war had broken out across Europe, and the entire T.C.B.S. (Tolkien’s group of friends) was soon engulfed in the bloody conflict. The four friends—again, like four hobbits— found themselves separated by war. On one December night in 1916, Tolkien’s closest friend G. B. Smith wrote a letter to him just before going out on patrol:
“My chief consolation is, that if I am scuppered tonight, there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. May God bless you, my dear John Ronald, and may you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them, if such be my lot.”
Smith was killed that night. By the war’s end, all but one of Tolkien’s friends perished.
It was through his experiences in the Great War that Tolkien was able to incorporate into his book the devastation of battle. Prior to the war, he had always considered men atop garish horses bearing ornate armor as the epitome of nobility and honor in warfare. The role that horses had in combat for centuries was unparalleled to anything else.
However, major technological advancements came about during World War I. The horse was quickly replaced by metal; the sword replaced by the gun; and all honor and chivalry was removed from war. How could a war that could deal death from a distance be compared to the respectable fighting of old? Tolkien suddenly saw the last ounce of honor being stripped from warfare. The “fires of industry” that Isengard produces in “The Two Towers” is Tolkien’s image of the rape of sophisticated conflict.
The kingdom of Gondor experiences a devastating attack in “The Return of the King.” This siege embodies the depletion of nobility from warfare. Mordor comes in staggering size, and with them come the machines of war—siege towers, catapults hurling flaming balls, a battering ram that makes light work of Gondor’s protective gate, giant creatures capable of squashing men, and even fire that can undo brick. When Rohan—the image of nobility—arrives in radiant splendor, they’re mowed down by the giant elephant-like creatures just as the machines of war (tanks and planes) altered traditional warfare.
“The Lord of the Rings” is, in actuality, an account of how things were, how things are, and how things could have and should have been. Tolkien’s feelings and perceptions manifest themselves throughout three books that chronicle the War of the Ring. Each new generation takes away something different. Each unique individual finds something personal to them. Each reader—just as Bilbo passed his story to Frodo, who passed it to Sam saying “there’s room for a little more”—adds something further to the story. Those words ring true in Tolkien’s world as well. To the reader, he says, “Here is my work. Read it, absorb it, add to it, and pass it along. The last pages are for you. There’s room for a little more.”