A journal of academic theology

Classical Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering

In the Western theological tradition, nonhuman suffering was not perceived as a “live” problem until the early modern period. Constrained by classical theism, the early modern figures of René Descartes, Anne Conway, and G.W. Leibniz developed three distinct approaches to animal theodicy based upon their unique reconceptualization(s) of the world. These three approaches, (1) denial of animal suffering (Descartes); (2) cosmic fall and vale of soul-making (Conway); and (3) necessary suffering of creation (Leibniz), remain the prevailing theodical options with respect to animal suffering in contemporary theological reflection. In light of the limitations of such theodicies, an engagement with the Christian theological narrative provides a framework for revisiting classical theism in relation to animal suffering.