Theological Foundations for an Ethics of Cosmocentric Transfiguration: Navigating the Eco-Theological Poles of Conservation, Transfiguration, Anthropocentrism, and Cosmocentrism with Regard to the Relationship Between Humans and Individual Nonhuman Animals
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Andrew Linzey, Animal theology, Environmental theology, Jurgen Moltmann, Nonhuman animals, Nonhuman ethics
In the past forty years, there has been an unprecedented explosion of theological writings regarding the place of the nonhuman creation in ethics. The purpose of this dissertation is to propose a taxonomy of four paradigms of eco-theological thought that will categorize these writings and facilitate the identification, situation, and constructive development of the paradigm of cosmocentric transfiguration. This taxonomy takes shape within the tensions of three theological foundations: cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology. These tensions establish two categorical distinctions between, on the one hand, conservation and transfiguration, and, on the other, anthropocentrism and cosmocentrism. The variations within these poles yield the four paradigms.
The first paradigm is anthropocentric conservation, represented by Thomas Aquinas. It maintains that humanity bears an essentially unique dignity and eschatological telos that renders the nonhuman creation resources for human use in via toward that telos. The second is cosmocentric conservation, represented by Thomas Berry. It maintains that humanity is part of a cosmic community of intrinsic worth that demands protection and preservation, not human manipulation or eschatological redemption. The third is anthropocentric transfiguration, represented by Orthodox theologians such as Dumitru Staniloae. It maintains that humans are priests of creation charged with the task of recognizing the cosmos as the eternal sacrament of divine love and using it to facilitate communion among themselves and with God. The fourth is cosmocentric transfiguration, represented by both Jürgen Moltmann and Andrew Linzey. It maintains that humans are called to become proleptic witnesses to an eschatological hope for peace that includes the intrinsically valuable members of the cosmic community.
Cosmocentric transfiguration, while under-represented and underdeveloped, provides a unique opportunity to affirm both scientific claims about the nature of the cosmos and the theological hope for redemption. In addition, it offers a powerful vision to address the current ecological crisis with regard to humanity's relationship to both individual nonhuman life forms and the cosmos at large. This vision calls for humans to protest the mechanisms of death, suffering, and predation by living at peace, to whatever extent context permits, with all individual creatures while at the same time preserving the very system they protest by protecting the integrity of species, eco-systems, and the environment at large. These findings warrant further research regarding the viability of cosmocentric transfiguration, in particular its exegetical warrant in scripture, its foundations in traditional voices of Christian thought, its interdisciplinary potential for integration of the sciences, and its internal coherency.
McLaughlin, R. (2013). Theological Foundations for an Ethics of Cosmocentric Transfiguration: Navigating the Eco-Theological Poles of Conservation, Transfiguration, Anthropocentrism, and Cosmocentrism with Regard to the Relationship Between Humans and Individual Nonhuman Animals (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/913