Question and Answer
Is the "sport" of hunting sinful?
As Christians we are called to take care of God's creation (Gen. 1:26). That includes taking care of animals, but what about the "sport" of hunting? Is that a biblical practice or is it a sin?
The command in Genesis 1:26 includes caring for creation, but more broadly it indicates that man is to "rule" over creation. The Hebrew word radah means "tread" and by extension "have dominion" as those possessing authority over other creatures. Thus man is to exercise a stewardly care and oversight over the created order as the Creator's representative (Ps. 8:5), and also to benefit from the bounty of creation as he tends and keeps it (Ps. 104:14–15). With respect to hunting animals, one of the purposes is to use the animal for food, and so would be legitimate according to God's word to Noah in Genesis 9:3, "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you."
There is also a recreational aspect to the sport of hunting, and here some distinctions should be drawn. If a hunter merely takes pleasure in shooting wildlife indiscriminately, and so leaves dead carcasses to rot in the wilderness, this would not be justified by Scripture since it would be an action meant only to satisfy one's violent desire. Proverbs 12:10 says, "Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel." This implies that cruelty extended to animals (in this case domestic) would be an expression of sinfulness. If, however, a hunter finds pleasure in the "sport" of hunting as other ends are also carried out—for example, the procurement of animal skins, enforcing population and pest control, gathering food, etc.—then hunting would fall under that activity of the image-bearer described in Genesis 1:26. Whether as part of one's vocation or avocation, being a hunter is permissible according to the Bible. Examples are Nimrod in Genesis 10:9 and Esau in Genesis 25:27.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.