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Title: Dietary pacifism : animals, nonviolence, and the Messianic community
Author: Barton, Matthew
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis uses relational theology, in conversation with the nonviolent communitarian ethics of Stanley Hauerwas, to construct a new theology of how humans relate to other animals. I argue that at least some other animals should be perceived as relational creatures of God; and that understanding our animal brothers and sisters in this way raises new questions for ethics and ecclesiology. The relationality we share with nonhuman animals – in individual relationships and the interwoven networks of relationship that make up creation – means that Christians can hope for relationships between humans and other animals to be sanctified by God’s grace. If we have this hope, and accept that theology is ethics (and eschatology not solely future-oriented), there is a clear impetus for individual Christians and church communities to look with reflective and prayerful eyes at how we relate to other animals. This will include thinking seriously about how our dietary choices impact upon them. I make two methodological shifts in the course of the thesis: from theology to ethics, and from there into ecclesiology and ethnography. These shifts are justified on the ground that theology is ethics: just as faith without works is dead (Jm. 2:17), so must theology be ethical. The use of ethnography and social-scientific methodology situates my discussion of church casuistry on animal and dietary ethics in the context of real, situated churches and church experiences. A theological ethic of diet which does not examine how churches think about eating, and the eating practices their members are formed in, would be incomplete. After outlining my aims and methodology in chapter 1, in chapter 2 I critique theological models of ‘stewardship’ (popular for thinking about human-animal relationality). Chapter 3 provides a short systematic theology of human-animal relationality which seeks to amend for stewardship’s limitations. In chapters 4-5, I consider the dietary implications of chapters 2-3, arguing that vegetarianism (theologically understood as dietary pacifism) is a valid ethical practice for followers of Christ. Chapters 6-8 look at ethical dialogue and discernment in church communities, arguing – partly via conversation with ordinary Christian vegetarians – that there is a theological impetus on individual Christians and the church to engage seriously with all ethical topics, including diet. In chapter 9, I draw the thesis together with a relational framework which emphasises radical inclusivity – the call for the church to be a community of human animals, in and for the wider community of creation.
Supervisor: Muers, Rachel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available