Since childhood, I have been distracted by animals of various kinds. I have shared responsibilities for turtles, tortoises, lizards, snakes, chickens, parakeets, cockatiels, parrots, horses, sheep, chinchillas, rabbits, dogs, cats, hermit crabs, tropical fish, and an “Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm.” Living with animals does not make me an expert. It does mean that I have some practical grasp of the care that animals require and the personalities they display.
I spent several years preparing to become a pastor: learning to interpret the Bible and teach it to others. One of my first sermon texts was Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous man regards the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” I wrote articles on the proper treatment of animals for small Christian magazines. Upon earning the Masters of Divinity degree, I recognized that I was more comfortable working in libraries.
I received the Masters of Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh in 1995, and became a professional librarian. As a librarian, I taught people how to find information. Professional librarians are encouraged to publish books about books, as “research helps.” My first and third published books, Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, and Animals are the Issue, were annotated bibliographies, to help people find resources on the subjects of animal rights and animal welfare. To write them, I read hundreds of books about secular and religious views on the treatment of animals.
My second book, People Promoting and People Opposing Animal Rights, includes interviews with forty people, on both sides of animal welfare issues. I wanted to understand not only what people believed, but why they believed, and how they sought to either bring about changes or protect the status quo.
About ten years ago I left library work and started a small business. Most Sundays I would preach as “pulpit supply,” meaning that I filled in at churches that lacked pastors. Every evening I continued studying about animals. My fourth book, War Elephants, shows the whole history of military use of pachyderms in warfare. In 2011, I finished a sequel, Animals in the Military, about dogs, pigeons, camels, horses, dolphins, and all other creatures used in war. This gave me a deeper under-standing of the historical progression of human ‘dominion’ over certain animals.
God has thus provided me with professional training in Bible interpretation and teaching, and professional training in secular research, which I have used to further His kingdom in a very narrow way. The first five books were simply the warm-up to this project: I believe that Jesus Christ planned for me to spend thirty years in this fashion. What seems like an indirect, haphazard, scattered collection of life experiences and duties, was my training ground. It took decades for all of these books and ideas and truths to percolate into a reasonable and helpful work. A 19th Century humanitarian, Lord Shaftesbury, wrote “I was convinced that God had called me to devote whatever advantages he might have bestowed upon me to the cause of the weak, the helpless, both man and beast…” (Linzey, Creatures, 24). I believe that God’s calling for me is to focus mainly on the beasts.
I am an expert at gathering material, studying it, organizing it, and presenting it. That was my job as a librarian, and as a preacher, and I hope that those skills will help to create a helpful website on the subject of animals in Christianity.
I hope that my previous books about animals will lend credibility to God’s Animals. Had I been a pastor for twenty years and then started this website, the audience might rightly ask, “what does Rev. Kistler know about animals?” Instead, I have had the time and opportunity to study nearly every book ever written on the subject of animal treatment, both religious and secular. So, while I may err, it is not for lack of trying to find the truth.
The purpose of this website is not simply to teach theology, nor to entertain. Even if you never discuss the theology of animals with another person, the subject is important to you directly. Why? Because cruelty to animals is a sin.
I intend to be true to the Scriptures and to the scientific data, which is the best that I can do. I welcome you to be skeptical! I also ask you to be open to the possibilities of truth, at the same time. Can you be skeptical and open simultaneously? This requires you to be cautious (lest you be deceived), yet flexible (lest you remain deceived). The Holy Spirit is the expert in guiding our hearts and minds to truths in God’s Word.
God’s Animals Living Abundantly is planned to help Christians understand the purpose, nature, treatment, and future of the animal world.