Toward a non-anthropocentric theology

Jeremy asked if I’d recommend any books on moving away from an anthropocentric theology. This is a question at the intersection of some perennial ATR themes, so I thought I’d post the answer here. The following list makes no pretense to be either authoritative or exhaustive, but these are some books (in no particular order) that I’ve found helpful:

Bill McKibben, The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation

H. Paul Santmire, Nature Reborn

Andrew Linzey, Animal Theology

Denis Edwards, Ecology at the Heart of Faith

Jay McDaniel, Of God and Pelicans

James M. Gustafson, An Examined Faith

Ian Bradley, God Is Green

Christopher Southgate, The Groaning of Creation

Of course, a lot depends here on what we mean by “moving away from anthropocentrism.” But, at a minimum, I think it’s any theology which recognizes that the rest of creation does not exist solely for the sake of human beings and that God’s purposes encompass more than human salvation. The books above range from fairly orthodox to fairly heterodox, and I wouldn’t endorse everything in all of them, but all provide stimulating food for thought. The list doesn’t include any classic sources, which isn’t to deny that there are resources in the tradition for a less anthropocentric theology (Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Wesley and others contain material that might be richly mined, it seems to me); neither does the list include much in the way of biblical studies, but that also seems like an important area for thought on this topic.

p.s. Other recommendations are welcome!


8 thoughts on “Toward a non-anthropocentric theology

  1. I must admit, I was a little disappointed that you didn’t comment on my posts on Future Evolution, because it seemed right up your alley. If Ward is right that humans are an exceptional species and we can’t help but shape the evolution of the planet indefinitely, does that have any bearing on theological anthropocentrism? I am also curious if you’ve read about Ward’s Medea hypothesis — that nature has periodic orgies of self-destruction and so we shouldn’t be afraid to actively manage it. Is trying to have the smallest “footprint” possible actually shirking responsibility? It seems to me that such a position would be biblically defensible, though of course the Bible doesn’t speak in those terms.

  2. Was that during my blog quasi-fast? I’ll have to go back and take a look.

    Off the top of my head, though, “can’t help but shape the evolution of the planet” seems like something that could admit of pretty widely varying interpretations. But I’ll have to check out your post.

    I’m also not sure I’d want to cash out our proper role on earth as having the smallest footprint. I think there may be a case to be made for active management (e.g., preventing species extinction), but one driven by care for other creatures rather than pure self-interest. Of course, I think that also needs to be balanced with a proper appreciation for the limits of our knowledge and technical skill in “managing” nature.

  3. Well, of course, reading the Bible is often preferable to reading books about the Bible. (I’m usually better about the latter than the former, personally.)

  4. Well, I see that somebody else has beat me to the punch by suggesting Job. Best book on the subject, I think. It’s odd how we get this little prejudice against anything written a really long time ago. It doesn’t count.

  5. I’d add just about anything by Joseph Sittler, especially the collection “Evocations of Grace.” I also thought Laura Yordy’s short-but-dense “Green Witness” was strong on this point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s