Over the weekend, I started reading the British theologian David Clough‘s On Animals: Systematic Theology (Volume 1). Clough, who co-edited this excellent collection on animals and theology, writes that he had originally intended to write a book about animals and Christian ethics, but found that the doctrinal foundations for such a project were so underdeveloped that he needed to write an entire volume on doctrine before getting to the ethical implications! (Volume 2, as I understand it, will cover the ethical upshot of the doctrinal points developed in this volume.)
The book is organized around the themes of creation, reconciliation, and redemption. Clough argues that, when properly understood, traditional formulations of these doctrines have implications for the place of animals that are far different than usually assumed. For example, the first two chapters on creation (which is as far as I’ve gotten) make the case that creation is not for the sake of human beings. Many theologians have maintained just this, but that’s largely, Clough contends, because they uncritically adopted positions from extra-biblical sources such as Stoicism, Platonism, or gnosticism (in the case of several of the church fathers) or had absorbed secular zeal for mastery over the natural world (as happened among some early-modern theologians). A better reading of the Bible and Christian faith, Clough says, is that creation is for the sake of God’s fellowship with all creatures and that (non-human) animals have their own place and vocation before God that is not merely to serve humanity.
I plan to blog more about Clough’s book as I make my way through it. (And note that the hardcover is listed at $120, while the Kindle version is a mere $15.)