William Witherspoon Lecture on Theology & the Natural Sciences

  • Dates: 08 May, 2013
  • Location: Princeton, NJ, USA
  • Address: 50 Stockton Street
  • Email: cti@ctinquiry.org
Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Luce Hall • 50 Stockton Street • Princeton
Free & Open to the Public

Re-Imaging the Image of God: Human Nature, Evolution and Other Animals

Celia Deane-Drummond

Professor of Theology

University of Notre Dame

The image of God has, for much of the history of Christian theology, sought to define the meaning of human uniqueness by stressing human superiority over against other animals. Many environmentalists and other scientists now argue that we have entered a new era, the Anthropocene, where humans dominate the life on planet earth, reinforced by a restricted interpretation of Neo-Darwinian human evolution in terms of survival of the fittest. Against such separation narratives, the importance of acknowledging the fluidity of the human/other animal boundary surfaces in literature, philosophy, religious studies and current anthropology. I will draw on current anthropology to present a case that even prior to the emergence of symbolic religious capabilities humans evolved in cooperative communities that recognised the significance of other animals as part of a wider community niche. I argue in this lecture that a constructive theological anthropology needs to be sensitive to such insights, while offering its own distinctive voice. In order to do this, I press for an interpretation of the image of God in terms of theodrama, one that has some analogies with current anthropological understanding of community niche construction. Theodrama does not eschew human distinctiveness, but it places greater emphasis on an enlarged vision of community of creatures. Theodrama is, in this view, about the specific performance of humanity in relation to God, but it is responsive in ecological terms to the active presence of other creatures.

Professor Celia Deane-Drummond is currently full Professor in Theology at the University of Notre Dame. She took up this position in August 2011 and her unique appointment is concurrent between the Department of Theology in the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Science. Her research interests are in the engagement of theology and natural science, including specifically ecology and evolution. Her research has consistently sought to explore theological and ethical aspects of that relationship. Her most recent books include Animals as Religious Subjects, Ed. with Rebecca Artinian Kaiser and David Clough (London, T & T Clark/Bloomsbury, 2013), Future Perfect, ed. with Peter Scott (London:Continuum, 2006, 2n edn. 2010), Ecotheology (DLT/Novalis/St Mary’s Press, 2008), Christ and Evolution (Minneapolis: Fortress/London:SCM Press, 2009), Creaturely Theology, ed. with David Clough (London: SCM Press, 2009) Religion and Ecology in the Public Sphere, ed. with Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (London, Continuum, 2011).