It seems in the end, we're committed to saying that God made this world good, but that God also made it with violence, with suffering, with death inherent to the process. Now, why would God do that? Some have suggested, like Christopher Southgate, that this was the only way God could have created to make a nonmagical world, where creatures have the possibility to become themselves. Michael Murray has suggested that there's simply no way that you can have creatures being able to develop skills and be able to develop their own way of living if you have a world where God intervene to prevent any sort of harm coming to them. So, I sometimes use the example of I grew up with three brothers. And you can imagine that when we were young, we would fight quite often. And if every time, my brother went to punch me, God suddenly made a pillow appear in-between him and I so that his punch didn't actually hurt me. And when I went to retort with some mean words, God said, "Well, hearing those words is going to hurt Bethany's brother." So, God caused the air vibrations with those words to just fall flat. Eventually, we would never be able to actually have a real relationship. All that would happen is that we'd become more and more isolated from each other. So the very hope of relationship is based on being able to have interactions that are both positive and negative. And other things sort of package too like pain. So we typically think, "Well, why wouldn't God create a world without pain? Wouldn't that be a better place to live?" But when we actually see that in practice, it's not a good thing. One of the most vivid examples is, what used to be called leprosy is now called Hansen's disease, where you have a bacterial infection of the nerves, the pain nerves in the body. And essentially, all that happens is that the infection kills the pain nerves so that people no longer feel pain. But then, what happens is that these people cannot protect themselves anymore. They burn themselves, and they don't pull away. They might walk on broken limbs and not realize that they're broken. And eventually, the body just can't take that kind of abuse and it breaks down. In one vivid example, from Paul Brand's book, they had a problem with people waking up in the morning with big ulcers, big pieces of flesh missing. And what they found out that was causing it was that in the night, rats were coming and eating off patient's flesh and fingers. And because they couldn't feel pain, they didn't wake up. So, some of the things like pain are things that seem bad, but are actually needed for a flourishing life. And ecosystems work in the same way. They need death. They need turnover in order to work. And so, you have this approach that this world with all of its values and disvalues is the only way that God could create. But there is actually one more way that we could talk about this. We could start from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the pain that a creature experiences and trying to justify it, we could instead start with the intentions of God in creation. So let's start there. God, we're told, creates out of love because of love. And love, by its very nature, has certain limitations. Love will not control the beloved. So, where we see controlling behavior in the guise of love, and I think of a parent who might dominate every aspect of their child's life, we recognize that this is not in fact love. There's something else going on. Love allows the other to be itself. So if God creates the world in love, we shouldn't be surprised that God gives created beings significant freedom with real implications to their actions. It's not a daycare world where everything is carefully controlled. As John Polkinghorne has argued, God, out of love, made a world with free process, which means that not every result of the process is necessarily the result of divine intention. Finally, we can ask, okay, if we have to have this world, if we have to have this world where there is suffering and death in order to live, what is God going to do about it? How is God responding to this? And we'll get a little bit more into this in the third section. But right now, I just want to play out some of the ways theologians have responded to this question of how does God respond to the suffering of creatures, human or non-human. One of the suggestions is the idea that although God doesn't intervene to stop the suffering, God co-suffers with the creatures. So, no creature suffers alone. Does that really help? I had a student once say to me, "It's not really helpful if I go to the doctor with a broken arm and they break their own arm in order to co-suffer with me. What I need is my arm fixed, not somebody that suffer with me." And that's true as far as it goes. Co-suffering doesn't make the whole argument. But here's how it can help. Do you remember the movie, Shrek, and the guy, Lord Farquaad? At one point, he stands up in his high balcony above all the gathered knights below, and he's going to send them off on a really dangerous mission to try and rescue the princess Fiona. And he says to them, "Some of you may die, but that is a risk I am willing to take." And if you don't have a co-suffering God, you end up being in danger of thinking God is like Lord Farquaad, the type who would send other people out to suffer in the processes of creation, while God stands back and isn't involved in this suffering. So we have this idea that God co-suffers, and that's seen most readily in the example of Christ, where in the cross of Christ, God takes on the sort of cost of all the evolutionary processes that lead to humans into this exchange of love in which we find some of the most meaningful pieces of creation. When trying to think about the question of suffering, one of the essential parts is to not just ask about how God justifies the suffering that happens here and now for the individual, but also what's to come. Any sort of Theodyssey worth its salt can't work without redemption. And there are various different ways to talk about that redemption. So, one might be a very this worldly approach, where what you're saying is that redemption actually happens in the context of the ecosystem. So if we have a bird who's pushed out of its nest by its older siblings, that the older sibling can take the food provision from the parents, that second chick might end up eaten by a fox. But because that second chick is sacrificed, then the fox flourishes. And when the fox flourishes, then other creatures in the ecosystem flourish as well. And so, maybe we can just wrap up the redemption of the individual in the way that energy moves through trophic systems so that the beauty of the whole is understood as a product of the sacrifice of the individual. But this is a little bit hard on the individual, and you end up with Dostoevsky's objection that if even on the back of one child, who's tortured, we have eternal immortal glory that we should hand back our ticket, we should say this is not worth the cost. So we seem to need something that holds for the individual just as well. And so, one of the approaches has been to talk about the question of objective redemption. It's called objective redemption, the idea that, where there is no resurrection for other creatures that maybe they're somehow held in the life of God, that they're celebrated eternally by God. And this is where they have their purpose as they're held in their contribution to God's life. But that raises some interesting questions as well. So if I have been that second little chick that's pushed out of the nest and my whole experience is one of neglect and starvation and a very premature death, what I actually do I contribute to the divine life. How is the eternal remembrance of my life, anything other than enshrinement of sort of an eternal victimhood? So, one of the things that theologians have turned to is to say, well, maybe the question of eternal life, of a life after this one, isn't just a human concern as it's often been thought and maybe there is a heaven for non-human creatures as well. And this isn't that new. John Wesley wrote about this in one of his sermons, and other people have sort of hinted at it. And there are hints in scripture as well, the idea that in heaven, the lion and the lamb will lay down together. And that presupposes the existence of the lion and the lamb in heaven. So, Jane McDaniel in his wonderful book of God and pelican's talks about this possibility that maybe there is a pelican heaven, maybe there's a heaven for other creatures who haven't found their flourishing here and that they'll be transformed into some sort of new existence where they can live flourishing lives. And I think that that sounds pretty good. It raises some questions of its own. How do you have a human heaven and a mosquito heaven together, for example? Or how do you have a heaven for the lion that's not a heaven for the lamb? Because unless you have a really deeply transformed lion, the lamb is not going to be safe. And if the lion is so transformed that it's happy to lie down with the lamb, what sort of lion do you have left? How much of a loss of the instincts of a lion can be lost before it ceases to be a lion? And any sort of heaven for it ends up being a flourishing in such a different state that it doesn't matter anymore. So these are some of the questions that come up. And Christopher Southgate discusses them quite a bit. And I've tried my own hand. And so, my solution, and maybe you'll have a different one to how heaven can work out for all sorts of creatures living together, is that maybe we can take those skills. So if the problem is a lion that eats straw, isn't a very impressive or good lion. But that if it doesn't eat straw, it's not a heaven for the lamb. Maybe there's a transformation of those instincts to a new object. So I think of sport, humans used to do a lot of hunting. Some still do, but most of us don't. And we've taken those sorts of social bonds, those sort of social instincts, as well as the instincts to have active lives and turned them into organized games. And so, maybe there is some way in heaven that there's sort of lions sports, where they can use all their hunting instincts, but not towards an end that would cause harm. All of this is highly speculative of course, and we do it with a little bit of fun, but it's an interesting thing to think about. What would constitute a redeemed life for a creature who can't necessarily be engaged in the same sort of worship or the same sort of promises that humans look forward to in the promise of the biblical text?