John R. Schneider

Animal Suffering and the Christian God: An Aesthetic View of Nature’s Creation and Redemption

I propose a distinctly Christian, “aesthetic” approach to the problem of God and animal suffering.  We should presume that animals do suffer (contra “Neo-Cartesianism”), and that they suffer in consequence of divine design (contra appeals to a Fall). Biblical resources, especially Job and Paul, freshly understood, support exploring divine justification by means of aesthetic analogies rather than by applying, univocally to God, conditions necessary and sufficient to justify human agents in deliberately authorizing evils (contra “consequentialist” explanation, and normative assumptions of “skeptical theism”). The approach is framed philosophically by proposals of Marilyn McCord Adams on God and human suffering.

Disclosure of divine vindication requires incorrigible firsthand experience of omnipotent moral goodness in the finished, eschatological whole, and promises to be more aesthetic than explanatory. Meanwhile, Christian traditions warrant believing that God values all species of animals, that the Atonement (somehow) includes animals, that the Resurrection (somehow) “defeated” evils for animals, and that animals will inhabit heaven.