Monday, March 04, 2019

Animal pain and penal substitution

Ironically, this is where the extremes of theistic evolution and young-earth creationism meet. On the one hand, Arminian theologian Randal Rauser is a theistic evolutionist. So I assume he's alluding to the problem of evil in reference to animal suffering. That's a faddish issue in theodicy. 

On the other hand, young-earth creationists attribute nature red in tooth and claw to the Fall. So they have a parallel position regarding the problem of animal suffering. 

As I've explained on more than one occasion, I don't think animal suffering (such as it is), should be included in the problem of evil. I don't think it poses a serious challenge to Christian theology. 

And in general, I don't think the subhuman natural order requires restoration or "healing". It's working pretty much the way it was originally designed to work. It's mainly a problem when humans are endangered by nature. 

It's preposterous to complain that penal substitution is defective because it fails to "heal" the non-human creation. That reflects a chic Green environmentalist outlook foreign to the theology of Scripture. But as a "progressive Christian," biblical revelation was never Rauser's lodestar. He's in his own little world of make-believe. 


  1. Randal Rauser

    "One of the (many) problems with penal substitution as a comprehensive theory of atonement is that it offers no explicit treatment of the restoration/healing of non-human creation."

    I agree with Rauser. Penal substitution is deficient unless and until it can offer an explicit treatment of the restoration/healing of the Klingons, the Vulcans, the Romulans, the Borg, the Time Lords, the Kryptonians, Kaiju like Godzilla and Mothra, the Great Old Ones like Cthulhu and Yig, space gorillas, Wookies, Ewoks, the Jedi, the Sith, Reptilians and Reptiloids, Flatwoods monsters, Hopkinsville goblins, and Marvin the Martian, to name a few.

    1. In fact, unless penal substitution can offer an explicit treatment of the restoration/healing of fallen angels, demons, and ghosts, then it's not a serious theory.

  2. Beyond the arguments you raise, I'd also argue that while penal substitution is essential to a description of Christ's work and its benefits, I don't know very many theologians in the reformed camp who argue that it is an exhaustive description of all that was accomplished. In other words, other aspects (such as the Christus Victor theme) could contribute to addressing this issue.