The Place of Animals in the Purposes of God

Author: Dr. Rob Cook

Abstract:

My recent interest in creaturely theology stems from three events: being adopted by a neighbouring cat called Leonora and spending meditative hours with her on my lap as we both mused over the slow drama of the garden, reflecting again on the problem of innocent suffering as I taught another generation of philosophy students, and reading the illuminating book, Second Nature: the inner lives of animals1. Questions bubbled up in my mind such as: where do animals fit into God’s purposes and what is our responsibility to them? What is a cat’s worldview? Is God happy when our cat brings in her offering of a dead mouse or are cats another fallen race and, if so, when did they and other predators fall? Given that this baby mouse never developed into a flourishing creature, for God to be good must we assume that animals too are given the gift of immortality and what could mutual flourishing be like for predator and prey? So I scurried into the literature and was surprised to find that creaturely theology is a burgeoning discipline. Some see it where feminist theology was thirty years ago. Creaturely theology tends to view us on a continuum with animals, or perhaps one should say, other animals. Together we constitute the ‘all flesh’ which God repeatedly addresses in Scripture. In fact, this is a much more common phrase than ‘the image of God’ which is the unique designation of us humans and this term probably refers to our role as God’s delegated ‘gardeners’ of the planet rather than any singular constitution we might possess as a species. Further, it is of significance that we are created on the same day as the land animals, we don’t even get a day to ourselves. Science confirms this continuum; evidently our genes are closer to those of the primates than a dolphin’s is to a porpoise or a horse’s to a zebra.

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