Dr. Cal DeWitt is one of the true fathers of the modern day creation care movement. He founded and was longtime president of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, where he worked to expose Christian college students to both a faith-informed and scientifically sound ethic of environmental stewardship. Cal played a formative role in the landmark "Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation" (2000) and Evangelical Climate Initiative (2006), in addition to authoring many personal works on the care of creation (some of which you can find here and here), and is currently professor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies.
Cal graciously reached out to me soon after I finished my seminary capstone paper on a Christian foundation for animal welfare, and I was deeply honored by the support he communicated. It wasn't until just recently however, to my discredit, that I realized the depth of Cal's passion for animals and our calling to steward them faithfully on God's behalf. This passion was keenly impressed upon me as I read his exceptional article "Behemoth and Batrachians in the Eye of God: Responsibility to Other Kinds in Biblical Perspective" (kindly posted by Drury University, bottom of page, and originally published in Christianity & Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth & Humans, 2000).
Perhaps you're wondering what in the world Cal means by "behemoth and batrachians." I admit I wasn't sure myself, though I did recognize the first of the two terms which is taken from a poignant passage in which God describes to Job the pleasure He takes in some of His creatures:
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
“He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
Under the lotus plants he lies,
in the shelter of the reeds and in the marsh.
For his shade the lotus trees cover him;
the willows of the brook surround him.
Behold, if the river is turbulent he is not frightened;
he is confident though Jordan rushes against his mouth.
Can one take him by his eyes,
or pierce his nose with a snare? (Job 40:15-24, ESV)
While bible translators have chosen to simply transilterate from the Hebrew to "behemoth," and some scholars have used the word as a more general label for beasts, Cal and most zoologists believe there's strong contextual evidence that "behemoth" actually refers to the hippopotamus. This inference is a significant one to Cal, because it means that God is not just concerned about His creatures in general, both as groups and individually, though that recognition alone is commendable. It means that God also takes great pride in creatures which we tend to find unattractive and unlovable, including the "leviathan" in the following chapter which is likely a crocodile, and other non-cuddly animals mentioned in God's address to Job, beasts which weren't meant to be under our control:
This is a creature that might not respond to your beckoning! It is not one you could put on a leash and show it off around town! It is God's creature and praises God in its being; it is not yours. It is not even yours in the sense that some of your pets are. My Hippo has strength and a will that can overwhelm you. Respect it!
Cal's article is a wonderful tribute to God's delight in and concern for oddly majestic beasts like the hippo and crocodile, and a powerful call to see all animals through the eyes of their Creator: "I am working ... to see the creatures through the eye of their Maker. I do so because of my conviction that insights on how the creatures might be viewed by their Creator may have profound implications for human relationship with living creatures." Cal does a wonderful job of further explaining, without being long-winded, his biblically grounded conviction about God's relationship to animals, and what it ought to mean for our stewardship of them as God's image bearers.
I hope very much you'll have an opportunity to absorb more of it yourself. "Behemoth and Batrachians ..." is well worth a half-hour's investment, and by way of minor cliff-hanger, you'll also finally get to figure out what "batrachian" means, and why Cal has such a connection to them!