Predators and Prey: Was Death Part of God’s Plan All Along?

Q&A: A theologian finds God’s care amidst suffering in an evolutionary creation.

Last month, scientists proposed a new ancestor of all life: a tiny, versatile organism akin to a stem cell. It would truly be an awesome God who could bring about all lifeforms from such a tiny creature, according to the view of evolutionary creationists. But the story of life isn’t always pretty: Animal death and suffering over millions of years is part of the history of our world. Creatures compete for limited resources, often at each other’s expense. Predators—including humans—rely on the death of other creatures for survival. These things are often cited as consequences of the fall in Eden, but could competition and pain have been part of God’s plan all along? And could such an awesome God, complicit in so much suffering, still be a good God as well?

Bethany Sollereder is seeking to answer that very question. Sollereder, who holds a PhD in theology from the University of Exeter and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in science and religion at the University of Oxford, was first inspired to study the theology of animal suffering after hearing other Christians struggle with the interaction of faith and evolution. Having just completed a four-year residency at The Kilns, the home of C. S. Lewis, Sollereder is the author of God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering (Routledge, 2018).

Sollereder spoke with CT recently about how her work has affected her own faith and understanding of the created world.

Would you say there’s scientific evidence that animals actually suffer?

Well, in one sense, all suffering is understood by analogy. I can’t prove, scientifically, that you suffer. All I can do is look at the signs you are giving me. And the same is true for animals. Where we see a similar brain …

Continue reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.