Denys Turner writes: “Eating lambs goes with being a lion; being a lamb-eating machine is more or less what a lion is. And more generally nature seems to require a level of raw indifference in matters of tooth and claw. If there is to be variety and complexity in the natural world we know, including large carnivorous cats, the lambs, alas, are going to have to pay for it with their lives.”
I think we all cringe in horror at the suffering and bloodshed in the animal kingdom. Turner seems to think that the groaning of the lamb is beautiful in light of the “common good” instead of an instance of the animal kingdom groaning for the new creation (Romans 8).
Pushing Irenaeus’ ideas to their limit, I would say that only initially is this state of destruction and limitation necessary for a created order of beings. We must emphasize the word “initially.” Initially the lion is a lamb-eating machine. But its eschatological meaning is quite the opposite and will overcome the fallen meaning we thrust onto him.
Going beyond Irenaeus, N. Berdyaev speculates that creation initially had to pass through this age of limitation, destruction, and even sin before the end. Because creatures are created ex nihilo, that “nihil” will run its course only to finally be destroyed forever in Christ. Every being is born casting its own unique shadow inherited from that maternal darkness. This is what it means to begin to be for all creatures. Only after the darkness has run its course finding its fever pitch in the crucified man and his mystical body will these sufferings and sins come to an end.
Then we will see that the lion does not mean a “lamb-eating machine” but the loving beast that Isaiah pictures, wherein both lion and lamb participate in the Lion of Judah, the Lamb slain before the foundations of the world.