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  • Writer's pictureChapman Chen

We Need Animals to Save Ourselves from Idolatry! By Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey. Ed. Dr. Chapman Chen 


Oxford University theology professor Rev. Andrew Linzey (2011) argues that it is self-deification and thus idolatry for Christians to regard homo sapiens as “the sole or exclusive concern of God”, and all other animals as instruments created for us to use, that this anthropocentric approach, which “runs through almost all historical and contemporary theology”, is in fact untheological. Below please find a relevant excerpt from Linzey (2011).


Christian theology needs animals to save itself – and ourselves – from idolatry. By “idolatry”, I mean the attempt to deify the human species by regarding the interests of human beings as the sole or exclusive concern of God the Creator (note 1).  Ludwig Feuerbach (1957) famously argued that Christianity is nothing other than the self-aggrandisement, even deification, of the human species (note 2).  


To avoid this charge, theology needs to show that it can provide what it promises – namely a truly Godward (rather than a simply anthropocentric) view of the world. Its obsession with human beings to the exclusion of all else betokens a deeply unbalanced doctrine of the Creator.


Christians haven’t got much further than thinking that the whole world was made for us, with the result that animals are only seen in an instrumental way as objects, machines, tools, and commodities, rather than fellow creatures. We just haven’t grasped that the God who meets us in Jesus is also the Logos through whom – and for whom – all creatures exist. To think that animals can be defined by what they do for us, or how they meet our needs, is profoundly un-theological.


The truth is that we are spiritually blind in our relations to other creatures, as blind as men have been to women, whites have been to blacks, and straights have been to gays.


We think God is only interested in the human species. This is the fault line that runs through almost all historical and contemporary theology.


Original Notes


1. The point is expanded in Andrew Linzey and Dan Cohn-Sherbok, After Noah: Animals and the Liberation of Theology (London: Mowbray, now New York: Continuum, 1997), pp. 118-119. Linzey’s earliest complaint against Christian anthropocentrism can be found in Andrew Linzey, ‘Is Anthropocentricity Christian?’ Theology, Vol. LXXXIV, No. 697, January 1981, pp. 17-21.


2. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1957), Trans by George Eliot, Introduction by Karl Barth, Foreword by H. Richard Niebuhr, section 2, pp. 12ff.


Linzey, Andrew (2011). "Address at Westminster Abbey." Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, Oct. 2.

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