Preservation and Protest

Preservation and Protest: Theological Foundations for an Eco-Eschatological Ethics

Ryan Patrick McLaughlin
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Preservation and Protest
    Book Description:

    Preservation and Protest proposes a novel taxonomy of four paradigms of nonhuman theological ethics by exploring the intersection of tensions between value terms (“anthropocentrism” and “cosmocentrism”) and teleological terms (“conservation” and “transfiguration”). These tensions arise out of the theological loci of cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology. The individual paradigms of the taxonomy are critically elucidated through the work of Thomas Aquinas (anthropocentric conservation), Thomas Berry (cosmocentric conservation), Dumitru Stăniloae (anthropocentric transfiguration), and Jürgen Moltmann and Andrew Linzey (cosmocentric transfiguration). McLaughlin systematically develops the paradigm of cosmocentric transfiguration, arguing that the entire cosmos—including all instantiations of life therein—shares in the eschatological hope of a harmonious participation in God’s triune life, a participation that entails the end of suffering, predation, and death. This paradigm yields an ethics based upon a tension between preservation (i.e., the sustaining of nature, which requires suffering, predation, and death) and protest (i.e., the personal witness against suffering, predation, and death through non–violent living). With this paradigm, McLaughlin offers an alternative to anthropocentric and conservationist paradigms within the Christian tradition, an alternative that affirms both scientific claims about natural history and the theological hope for eschatological redemption.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8948-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    “That’s how it’s supposed to be.” Those were the marveling words of Calvin DeWitt, a scientifically astute evangelical, in response to a description of how every year at a wetland preserve in Ohio, half of a pond would dry up quickly, leaving whatever fish happened to be on that side stranded in insufficient puddles. The birds would swoop down to the flopping feast, gathering the easy prey. Life and death; predator and prey; pleasure and suffering. For DeWitt, these are the necessary and beautiful antitheses of nature.

    It was DeWitt’s position that impressed upon me that not all scholars who...

  7. Part I. A New Taxonomy of Nonhuman Theological Ethics

    • Part I Introduction
      (pp. 13-14)

      To best establish the theological foundations of an eco-eschatological nonhuman ethics, it is pertinent to frame this ethics within the wider field. Such is the aim of part I. I begin by critically examining current options of the table for mapping nonhuman theological ethics. From this examination, I offer a new taxonomy to categorize the field better than existing taxonomies do. I achieve this aim by exploring the theological loci I detect to be central concerning the moral status of nonhumans. Out of the tensions that arise from these loci, four paradigms of nonhuman theological ethics take shape. While my...

    • 1 Current Taxonomies of Nonhuman Theological Ethics
      (pp. 15-24)

      Does the world really need another classification of environmental ethics? Or am I simply so desperate to find a niche and write a book that I will stoop to reinventing the wheel? Desperation notwithstanding, the past seven years of research has convinced me that a new taxonomy will greatly benefit the current field. My aim in this chapter and the next is to delineate and supplement existing classifications, combine their strengths, and ameliorate their weaknesses. To achieve this goal, I must first critically engage the writings of those who have mapped the field, suggest why I think a novel approach...

    • 2 Three Theological Loci for a New Taxonomy
      (pp. 25-56)

      If you gather a group of theologians into a room and ask “Is death good?”, “Does creation require redemption?”, or “Do human beings have dominion over the nonhuman creation?”, you are bound to receive a wide variety of answers—some of which sound the same but mean completely different things! What is at the root of these differences? In this chapter, I explore in detail the three theological categories I propose for a new taxonomy of nonhuman theological ethics. I intend this exploration to draw out fundamental tensions I detect in disparate positions within the field.

      In his effort to...

    • 3 A New Taxonomy
      (pp. 57-78)

      In the previous chapter I explored three fundamental loci for nonhuman theological ethics: cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology. At the intersection of these loci, two fundamental tensions arise. The first burgeons out of the interplay between the historical telos of the nonhuman creation and that of the human creation. By “historical telos,” I intimate the purpose of a thing or groups of things within the unfolding of the present creation. The term stands in juxtaposition to an “eternal” or “ultimate” telos, which denotes the eschatological destiny of a thing or group of things. Why do humans and nonhumans exist in history?...

    • 4 Anthropocentric Conservation
      (pp. 79-102)

      Generally speaking, anthropocentric conservation is informed by three core principles.¹ First, the nonhuman creation exists, in history, for the sake of humanity. Second, the nonhuman creation exists, in history, for the entire human community, both present and future. Third, the eschatological telos of sharing in God’s own life is reserved for rational (i.e., human and angelic) creatures and the elements/matter necessary to facilitate this telos.

      The role of the human creature is to use properly the gift of the cosmos. Proper use entails taking account of both the telos of that cosmos (in history, as an ordered source of sustenance...

    • 5 Cosmocentric Conservation
      (pp. 103-124)

      Willis Jenkins notes that, in the wake of Lynn White’s critique of Christianity, most eco-theological thinkers have accepted that one of the most fundamental aspects of retrieving Christianity’s environmental potentials entails exploring whether or not it is bound to a human-centered worldview.¹ Subsidiary to this exploration are questions regarding the role of science in the construction of nonhuman ethics. On the one hand, a complete relinquishment of truth to the realm of science often engenders a demystification of the nonhuman cosmos. This demystification provides the groundwork for an anthropocentric worldview in which nonhumans do not attain to the status of...

    • 6 Anthropocentric Transfiguration
      (pp. 125-150)

      Cosmocentric conservation provides a critique to its anthropocentric counterpart for an overemphasis on the importance of humans in history. Anthropocentric transfiguration critiques its conservationist counterparts for an under-emphasis on the import of nonhumans in the eschaton. In this paradigm, the whole of the cosmos is destined for transfiguration, which denotes an eschatological participation in God’s eternal life. However, the nonhuman creation’s participation in the eschatological community is primarily—if not solely—for the sake of the divine-human drama. That is, the cosmos serves both historically and ultimately as a sacrament the divine-human rapport. John Haught is thus correct in his...

    • Part I Conclusion
      (pp. 151-154)

      I have considered three of the four paradigms of my proposed taxonomy of nonhuman theological ethics. My exploration provides concrete examples of these paradigms within Christianity. Among the most important differences between the paradigms are the role and status of the human being (anthropology), the role and status of the nonhuman creation (cosmology), and the scope of the eschatological community (eschatology). At this intersection, one senses the real contrast among nonhuman theological ethics.

      Table IC.1 summarizes this contrast:

      The differences between these paradigms underline the possibility for a fourth. Note the fundamental categories. On the one hand, a paradigm can...

  8. Part II. Toward an Eco-Eschatological Ethics of Preservation and Protest

    • Part II Introduction
      (pp. 157-162)

      Part II will develop basic parameters of cosmocentric transfiguration by critically engaging and comparing the work of Jürgen Moltmann and Andrew Linzey. While Moltmann and Linzey are contemporaries, there is very little engagement between them. To my knowledge Moltmann never engages Linzey’s work. Linzey does engage Moltmann, but very rarely and never in any great detail.

      This lack of engagement is lamentable as Moltmann and Linzey complement one another well. Moltmann thrives in theological ingenuity but is rather non-concrete (and inconsistent) in his ethics. Linzey’s ethics are, more often than not, specific and definite. However, he tends to be less...

    • 7 Moltmann on God, Creation, and the Fall
      (pp. 163-184)

      I begin my examination of Moltmann with his Trinitarian framework, which provides the contours for his cosmology. The history of the cosmos is also the history of the divine community. The two impact one another. All that happens in the history of the world happens in the history of the triune God. In this chapter, I explore Moltmann’s social doctrine of the Trinity and how that doctrine impacts cosmology, including the fall.

      Moltmann begins to develop his thoughts on the Trinity in his earlier works. InTheology of HopeandThe Crucified God, he focuses mainly on the relationship between...

    • 8 Moltmann on Redemption and Mission
      (pp. 185-212)

      In the previous chapter, I explored Moltmann’s understanding of God, the creation, and the fall. God, who is a community of love, chooses to create—and thereby suffer the existence of—a world that is other-than-God. This world has its own communal integrity, which entails negative dimensions of transience such as suffering and death. However, the divinely intended telos of the world is a participation in the perichoretic love of the Trinity, which entails the transfiguration of transience. To understand the nature and extent of this transfiguration in Moltmann’s theology, I here examine his Christology, pnuematology, eschatology, and mission-oriented ecclesiology....

    • 9 Moltmann’s Nonhuman Theological Ethics
      (pp. 213-236)

      In the previous two chapters, I offered an explication of dimensions of Moltmann’s theology pertinent to my thesis. In this chapter, I delineate Moltmann’s ethics of cosmocentric transfiguration, both with regard to the whole and individual nonhuman animals. I also suggest why I believe his ethics is inconsistent with the theological foundations I have outlined.

      The holistic dimension of Moltmann’s ethics burgeons out of his affirmation of the cosmic community. This community is one of law, which entails cosmic rights. The nature of these rights is unclear as they exist in a tension between conservation and transfiguration.

      Moltmann specifically targets...

    • 10 Linzey on Creation, Fall, and Redemption
      (pp. 237-258)

      “For me the choice has always been between theism and nihilism. There is either reason to hope or nothing to hope for; good news or no news at all.”¹ This claim evinces the import of religion for Andrew Linzey. However, his first work,Animal Rights, is much less theologically explicit than his later works.² He acknowledges a development in his appreciation for the Christian tradition. In self-critique, he states that his early work “failed to grapple sufficiently with the theological tradition about animals that we have inherited” and thereby offered “moral critique with insufficient theological understanding.”³ Turning more thoroughly to...

    • 11 Linzey on Christ, the Spirit, and Anthropology
      (pp. 259-278)

      In the previous chapter, I examined the role that theology proper, creation, the fall, and eschatology play in Linzey’s theological framework. The good creation is fallen, evident in the ubiquity of suffering and death. The creation longs for redemption from these mechanisms through the eschatological inbreaking of the divine kingdom. In this chapter, I explore how Linzey’s Christology, pneumatology, and anthropology speak further to creation’s longing.

      Linzey’s theology is decidedly christocentric: “For me Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. What is given in Jesus is, in my view, determinative of our understanding of the nature of God”.¹...

    • 12 Linzey’s Nonhuman Theological Ethics
      (pp. 279-306)

      In the previous two chapters, I explored Linzey’s theological framework. In the present chapter, I examine how this framework translates into a nonhuman theological ethics. I begin with his moral position regarding the cosmos at large and non-sentient creatures. Next, I consider at length the place that individual sentient animals occupy in his ethics, including his position on practices such as hunting, experimentation, and meat-eating.

      Linzey maintains that humans are unique in the created order. However, he denies that this uniqueness constitutes an exclusion of sentient nonhuman animals from the moral community. With regard to non-sentient life, however, Linzey’s position...

    • 13 Moltmann and Linzey Comparison and Analysis
      (pp. 307-316)

      As far as I can tell, Moltmann never cites Linzey in his work. Linzey does infrequently cite Moltmann, though at times only to critique a perceived anthropocentric deficiency.¹ Given this dearth of interaction, I here seek to examine the convergences, divergences, and ambiguities that exist between their thought. In my view, Moltmann tends to provide a more thoroughly developed theological foundation for cosmocentric transfiguration while Linzey is far consistent in establishing how these foundations translate into practice with regard to (at least sentient) nonhuman animals. It is not my purpose here to engage criticisms of Moltmann and Linzey, a task...

  9. Part III. Toward an Eco-Eschatological Ethics of Preservation and Protest

    • 14 Theological Foundations for Cosmocentric Transfiguration
      (pp. 319-348)

      In part I, I delineated three theological loci for establishing a taxonomy of nonhuman theological ethics: cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology. Correlating to these loci, both Moltmann and Linzey concur on three foundational theological claims. First, God has created a good cosmos and desires communion with every single instantiation of life therein. Second, God has appointed humanity with a special responsibility in this creation. Third, the creation, while good, has become in some sense distorted or disoriented and requires eschatological redemption. While these three claims are the central tenets of cosmocentric transfiguration, they benefit from a broader systematic framework. Having examined...

    • 15 Possible Critiques of Cosmocentric Transfiguration
      (pp. 349-380)

      In chapter 13, I compared and critically evaluated both Moltmann and Linzey. In the previous chapter, I experimentally delineated in brief a set of theological foundations for cosmocentric transfiguration. Here, I address common critiques of Moltmann and Linzey that also apply to my foundations. First, I consider the hermeneutics of cosmocentric transfiguration with regard to both scripture and tradition. Second, I examine the critique that an affirmation of fallenness and redemption denigrates science and the nonhuman creation. Third, I address the question of whether the peaceable kingdom constitutes the dissolution of certain species. Finally, I clarify the issue regarding the...

    • 16 Cosmocentric Transfiguration An Eco-Eschatological Ethics of Preservation and Protest
      (pp. 381-402)

      Given all that has been said to this point, what are the logistics of cosmocentric transfiguration? What I offer here is nothing more than suggestions of how one might move toward answering this question. I make no claims to comprehensiveness as such a task would require another book (one which I hope to write). Here, my thoughts should be understood as a place to begin—a direction for future research.

      I begin by considering the tensions of temporal existence and the qualifications I believe these tensions mandate. I then explore how cosmocentric transfiguration might translate into practices toward individual sentient...

  10. Conclusion Cosmocentric Transfiguration as the “Best of Both Worlds”
    (pp. 403-418)

    This work had two major aims. First, it set out to propose a taxonomy consisting of four paradigms of eco-theological ethics in an effort to better classify the field. Second, it sought to develop constructively the paradigm of cosmocentric transfiguration in order to better represent it among the other paradigms. Having delineated the taxonomy, its paradigms, and the contours of cosmocentric transfiguration, it is now necessary to restate and evaluate my findings, offer conclusions, and suggest possible directions for further development.

    Part I explored three paradigms of eco-theological ethics. In anthropocentric conservation, a paradigm I expounded through the work of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 419-438)
  12. Index
    (pp. 439-460)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 461-461)