After the hit movie “Dolphin Tale,” the little Clearwater Marine Aquarium has instantly become a smash hit of a tourist destination. You can actually see a webcam of Winter the dolphin-though I don’t think you can facetime or skype her yet. If you haven’t seen the movie, and I’ve only seen about half, it is the story of a dolphin washing up on shore, disabled and entangled in the rope of a crab trap. It’s tail is gangrenous and falls off (in the movie its amputated), but the animal learns to swim without it. Then they grant it a prosthetic tail which is used for training purpose (I think in the movie its a permanent appendage).
Everyone from my 3 year old to 6th grade nephews have seen the movie and wanted to visit “Winter.” Everyone. It was packed when I visited the place with my family and in-laws over the Xmas break. Packed but well worth the visit.
Our visit left me with a few thoughts, but one which my wife reminded me today: what place does animal rescue, particularly of dolphins-but more generally of sea creatures-play in a Christian worldview? Is it inconsistent with a Christian worldview, or is it inconsistent with a non-Christian worldview? Or inconsistent with both?
Only about one beached/trapped/injured dolphin in a 1000 actually survives being transferred from the wild to aquarium. And when they do, it’s a lot of work. I watched an amazing video, not of Winter, but of another dolphin called Hope. They have to actually give these baby dolphins baby formula (Winter was found as a baby, not like you see in the movie-we still can’t time travel unfortunately so you can understand that one..), blend it with herring, and teach them to drink it. They spend all hours of the day. There was footage of the workers feeding dolphins on Xmas Eve. Just 50 yards away, we could see the fruit of their effort as Hope did tricks and frolicked and jumped in his tank. And splashed my son. He still talks about it.
The story of Winter is heartwarming and inspiring for many vets who’ve paid dearly for their service in the war. So, I want to pose the question in a more general way, are such efforts to save and rehabilitate animals consistent with a Christian, or non-Christian, worldview?
In order for this post to not get too long, and to spend a little more time thinking about the question, I’ll try to break it up a bit.
Sometimes answering questions by asking other similar questions can help be of great service. Can a person be a scientist for the glory of God? Can they study physics, marine biology, astronomy? Of course. In a Reformed Christian worldview, as espoused in the Protestant Reformation, there is no distinction between secular and spiritual work.
For instance, I’m a pastor. You can be a scientist. And we can both honor Christ. One is called to be spend more time studying, preaching, teaching God’s Word. The other is called to spend more time studying God’s World. His Word points us to Jesus, and His World can point us to Jesus too. Just ask the Magi-they followed stars.
So if scientists can study God’s World and learn how God’s World operates-and teach us who are not scientists-then why would it be outside that worldview to think they can learn and study how the world operates in order to save dolphins and other sea creatures. They are applying what they know of God’s World to help preserve God’s creatures. If I believe it is good to be a scientist for God’s glory, then I think its more than consistent-but a logical next step-to use that knowledge to preserve His creatures.
Even though that’s only one reason, I’ll stop here and try to get to a few more reasons why I think (with a few parameters) such a dolphin rescue is consistent with a Reformed Christian Worldview.