Theological anthropology, human animality, and the human-animal distinction: A constitutive knot in ecological degradation

Eric Daryl Meyer, Fordham University


The habit of drawing distinctions between humans and other animals has a formative role in Christian theological anthropology, particularly insofar as the traits that theologians have identified with human uniqueness have also been marked as the points at which human life stands open to divine grace. Where theologians conceive of human uniqueness as a correlate of full communion with God and not simply a matter of created human nature, the commonalities between human beings and other animals become theologically precarious and unstable. This dissertation examines the ways that three late ancient Christian authors theologically disavow human animality, yet continue to rely on animality in unnamed ways within their understanding of divine-human communion. The project then demonstrates that contemporary theologians treat human animality in analogous ways, making a case for a pervasive "problem of human animality" within Christian theology. Finally, the dissertation offers three constructive chapters focused on three major moments within the theological narrative--creation, sin/redemption, eschatological transformation--in which human animality is neither disavowed nor subordinated. A theological anthropology focused on human animality in this way draws attention to the politics of creaturely life--the dynamic patterns of interaction by which creatures shape the ecological systems that they share with other living beings. By making plain the theological significance of shared creaturely life--or rather, by removing the ideological barriers that mask this importance--theological attention to human animality encourages a self-understanding in which resistance to ongoing ecological degradation is part and parcel of life as one of God's many beloved creatures.

Subject Area

Religious history|Religion|Philosophy|Theology

Recommended Citation

Meyer, Eric Daryl, "Theological anthropology, human animality, and the human-animal distinction: A constitutive knot in ecological degradation" (2014). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3684482.