Andrew Linzey on “Theology as if Animals Mattered”

In the essay “Theology as if Animals Mattered” Andrew Linzey, who’s work represents the single most extensive theological engagement with animal welfare to date, confronts some of the challenges that the issue of animal welfare poses for Christians in particular. Christian theology, he argues, has been slow to address the growing concern for animal welfare, often marginalizing the plight of animals as a non-issue. As the case for the moral significance of animal welfare gains an increasingly strong basis in philosophical reason, for Christians the issue of the moral status of animals remains “at a stage somewhat similar to the feminist issue forty years ago” (p.10). Linzey here has in mind a time when many Christians were vehemently opposed to equal rights for women. Linzey laments the anthropocentricity in much of Christian ethics, seeing it as a myopia so deeply ingrained in our thought today that many now find it difficult to think of animals as existing for any other purpose than as resources for human utility. Linzey takes particular issue with two facile assumptions about how animals must be understood in Christian theology: First, he addresses the idea that the bible lends support to human supremacy, and second, with the idea that it endorses the view that animals are made for human use. Citing a number of biblical passages, he shows that the assumption of human supremacy can only be considered faithful to the biblical story in a “highly qualified way”, and that the second claim, that animals are made for human use, is unequivocally unbiblical. Linzey suggests that to the degree that Christians seek to be sound in their theology they should strive to supplant their anthropocentric conception of animals (indeed of the cosmos!) with a theocentric one.

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