On Animals: Volume 1, Systematic Theology

By Merrick, James R. A. | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

On Animals: Volume 1, Systematic Theology


Merrick, James R. A., Anglican Theological Review


David L. Clough. On Animals: Volume 1, Systematic Theology. London: T&T Clark, 2012. xxiv + 215 pp. $120.00 (cloth).

As the title reveals, this is the first installment of a two-volume project on animals by David Clough, Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Chester. A mix of constructive theology and critical doctrinal survey, it outlines the systematic theological framework for a forthcoming volume on the Christian ethics of non-human animal life. While ethics is his primary interest, Clough nevertheless believes the theology is important. He observes that "human relationships with non-human animals have undergone rapid transformation, as a result of the industrialization of meat production, the expansion of human population and new scientific knowledge" (p. xii). Lacking a theological vision, Christians have remained largely insensitive to these changes and thus have not seen it necessary to address them in the course of their witness.

While Clough weighs a number of specific positions - both classical and contemporary - on the loci of creation, reconciliation, and redemption, his overarching interest seems to be the displacement of the anthropocentrism (what Andrew Linzey calls "humanocentricity") that has too often become the default theological outlook. We can see why Clough found it necessary to engage systematic theology first, for it is not just ignorance but inadequacy he detects in Christian theology.

The first part considers the doctrine of creation. Clough easily dispatches those views which identify human flourishing as the purpose for all other created being as well as crude theocentric accounts which reduce creation to a divine tool. Creation is for the purpose of divine delight and fellowship with creatures, fellowship which blesses the creature since creation is of God. Clough continues by arguing that human and non-human animals partake of the same kind of fellowship with God. Of course, Clough must tackle the question of the meaning of the imago Dei. He sees no compelling empirical or biblical reason to think it is ontological; it refers to the distinct human calling in creation to reflect and cultivate the blessing of God in creation, not a capacity that elevates them from animal life. If humans are called to bear forth God to creation, and God delights in fellowship with all creatures, then humans should not prioritize their needs over the needs of the world but have an imperative to delight in the particularity of all creatures.

Clough faces a more difficult task in the next part of the book, where he explores how non-human animals are included in the incarnation and atonement. Perhaps the challenge is why he tends to be more constructive in its two chapters. …

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