What is it about?

Two new books helpfully refine the position vaunted by Theistic Evolution. These two books will garner the interest especially of the proleptic school within Theistic Evolution, which affirms (1) the long history of evolution as God's creative work; (2) the Theology of the Cross wherein God shares in the sufferings and even death of all creatures, animals included; (3) Jesus' Easter resurrection as a prolepsis of the eschatological new creation; and (4) the coincidence of creation with redemption. These two provocative new works are Bethany Sollereder's God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall, along with Christopher Southgate's Theology in a Suffering World: Glory and Longing. This article tackles a problem surfacing in the work of both Sollereder and Southgate: when eliminating the fall, the combination of redemption and creation becomes incoherent. Robert John Russell's "fall without a fall" provides greater coherence in the proleptic version of Theistic Evolution.

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Why is it important?

Even though theistic evolutionists overcome the problem of the so-called warfare between evolution and creation by affirming divine providence at work in evolution, they confront another difficulty, namely, it appears that God becomes responsible for predation, suffering, death, and extinction. How do contemporary theologians such as Bethan Sollereder, Christopher Southgate, and Robert John Russell handle this difficulty?


Because Charles Darwin himself recognized the theodicy problem and sought to protect God by ascribing predation and extinction to natural selection, theistic evolutionists following Darwin must avoid glib or sweetened descriptions of God as creator. The theodicy problem must be addressed by theistic evolutionists and, I believr, resolved by affirming a Theology of the Cross, according to which God becomes the victim, not the perpetrator, of suffering in the animal kingdom.

Prof Ted F Peters
Graduate Theological Union

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This page is a summary of: Evolution, Suffering, and Eschatological Redemption: Sollereder, Southgate, and Russell on Theodicy, Theology and Science, March 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/14746700.2019.1596253.
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