God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering

Theodicy without a Fall, 1st Edition

By Bethany N. Sollereder


206 pages

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Hardback: 9781138608474
pub: 2018-10-31
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After the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, theologians were faced with the dilemma of God creating through evolution. Suddenly, pain, suffering, untimely death and extinction appeared to be the very tools of creation, and not a result of the sin of humanity. Despite this paradigm shift, the question of non-human suffering has been largely overlooked within theodicy debates, overwhelmed by the extreme human suffering of the twentieth century. This book redresses this imbalance by offering a rigorous academic treatment of the questions surrounding God and the suffering of non-human animals.

Combining theological, philosophical, and biblical perspectives, this book explores the relationship between God and Creation within Christian theology. First it dismantles the popular theological view that roots violence and suffering in the animal kingdom in the fall of humanity. Then, through an exploration of the nature of love, it affirms that there are multiple reasons to suggest that God and creation can both be "good", even with the presence of violence and suffering.

This is an innovative exploration of an under-examined subject that encompasses issues of theology, science, morality and human-animal interactions. As such, it will be of keen interest to scholars and academics of religion and science, the philosophy of religion, theodicy, and biblical studies.


"This is a ground-breaking study which faces fearlessly the implications of believing that God creates through the process of evolution, with the consequent suffering caused to animals. Rejecting any explanations which rely on a single-point, historic fall of the universe the author develops a highly original alternative account, taking seriously the meaning of the love of a creator God, that all theologians will need to take a view on. At times provocative, always clear, expert, readable and interesting, this is essential reading for all who want to continue writing theodicies in the modern era of biological science."

– Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, UK

"A thoughtful, original and important exploration of an important theological topic. Dr Sollereder opens up some of the most challenging questions arising from Darwin's theory of evolution, and offers fresh insights and perspectives to her readers."

– Alister McGrath, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford, UK

"Rigorously researched, and written with both clarity and passion, Bethany Sollereder’s new book makes a highly creative contribution to a significant and much neglected debate. It will be a vital resource for researchers and students alike."

– Christopher Southgate, Professor of Christian Theodicy, University of Exeter, UK

"In this engaging book Sollereder is "joining a conversation" on evolutionary theodicy that has now spanned a decade or more. She does so with aplomb, with new insights, coherence, courage, and with lively and intelligent interactions with her peers. Spanning a wide theological horizon, Sollereder delves deep into the issues of divine action, the goodness and freedom of creation, the problems of evolutionary suffering, God’s temporality, kenosis, passability and above all God’s love for all of creation. Hers is an account that sees humanity as uniquely capable of love, as uniquely transcending the natural inclinations of the evolutionary process, and God as having loving and saving intentions for all creatures."

– Nicola Hoggard Creegan, co-director, New Zealand Christians in Science and author of Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil

"The question of why there should be evil, suffering and death in a world supposedly made by a good God is one of the oldest challenges to religious belief there is, and it famously troubled Darwin no end. With great skill and sensitivity, Sollereder reviews the resources available. Instead of providing food for doubt, she argues that evolutionary science leads us in the opposite direction, towards a richer and more inspiring account of a loving, ever-present God. This book doesn’t indulge in the platitudes that so often beset this area, but instead grapples with the problems with sobriety and realism. For all those who have worried, like Darwin, that the world is simply too cruel for religious optimism, Sollereder provides a robust alternative. This book will surely become the go-to resource for this most intractable of all theological problems."

– Mark Harris, Senior Lecturer in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh, UK

"This book redresses this imbalance by offering a rigorous academic treatment of the questions surrounding God and the suf-fering of non-human animals. Combining theological, philosophical, and biblical per-spectives, it explores the relationship between God and creation within Christian theology."

- Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology

"Sollereder offers a stimulating and provocative experiment in rational theological imagination."

- Robert MacSwain, Associate Professor of Theology, University of the South, Sewanee, TN, Reading Religion

Table of Contents

1 Leaving the Courtroom

2 The Bible and The Fall

3 Joining the Conversation

4 Creation, Freedom, and Love

5 Special Divine Action

6 Redemption

7 Conclusion

About the Author

Bethany N. Sollereder is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK in the Faculty of Theology and Religion. She is a fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion and of the Royal Society of Arts. She has written for a number of journals and magazines, including Zygon, Theology & Science, and The Christian Century and she is a regular contributor to the BioLogoswebsite.

About the Series

Routledge Science and Religion Series

Science and religion have often been thought to be at loggerheads but much contemporary work in this flourishing interdisciplinary field suggests this is far from the case. The Science and Religion Series presents exciting new work to advance interdisciplinary study, research and debate across key themes in science and religion. Contemporary issues in philosophy and theology are debated, as are prevailing cultural assumptions. The series enables leading international authors from a range of different disciplinary perspectives to apply the insights of the various sciences, theology, philosophy and history in order to look at the relations between the different disciplines and the connections that can be made between them. These accessible, stimulating new contributions to key topics across science and religion will appeal particularly to individual academics and researchers, graduates, postgraduates and upper-undergraduate students.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
PHILOSOPHY / Religious
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Biblical Studies / General
RELIGION / Christian Theology / General
RELIGION / Christian Theology / Ethics
RELIGION / Theology
RELIGION / Religion & Science