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‘Go to the ant, you lazybones’ (NRSV, Prov. 6:6): The Church and Nonhuman Animals in the World

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image of International Journal of Public Theology

Abstract This article engages with the ecclesiology of Stanley Hauerwas in considering the relationship of church to world within the broader context of God’s creation, which includes nonhuman as well as human animals. In conversation with Hauerwas, an evaluation of understandings of ‘world as creation’ and ‘world as fallen’ gives rise to a new understanding of world, as a public of responsible beings. This understanding produces three questions: what does it mean for nonhuman animals to be perceived by the church as part of the world, how are we justified in advancing such a perception and what are the implications of this? In answering these questions, two distinct classes of responsibility are recognized: animal responsibility, shared by human and nonhuman animals; and responsibility to God, unique to humans. In having responsibility, animals are part of the world to which the church is called to respond; and in responding, to learn as well as to witness.

Affiliations: 1: University of Leeds UK


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