Towards an Animal Theology in Eastern Orthodox Christianity

  • Christine Nellist

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


UNIVERSITY OF WINCHESTER ABSTRACT Towards an Animal Theology in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Dr. Christine Nellist ORCHID NUMBER: 0000-0002-5956-2089. Doctor of Philosophy. February 2017. My thesis advances the overarching hypothesis that the Eastern Orthodox Church has sufficient teachings to develop a theology which tackles the difficult subject of animal suffering. However, during the review of theological academic literature I identified a gap between what might be termed Orthodox theory and its practice. In essence the overarching hypothesis is broken down into three component parts: i) That Eastern Orthodox teachings allow for the formulation of an ‘Animal Theology’ of the Eastern Orthodox Church; ii) That there is a gap between Orthodox theory and practice on this theme both at academic and pastoral level; iii) That the abuse and exploitation of animals has negative soteriological consequences for those who indulge in such practices; those who know but are indifferent to animal suffering and those who know and are concerned but fail to act in order to reduce or prevent that suffering. Different methodologies were used for the different areas of research which range from biblical exegesis and neo-patristic synthesis, to the formulation of new empirical research collected via questionnaires to animal protectionists in Cyprus and interviews with Orthodox theologians in Cyprus and the UK. In the final two chapters contemporary Eastern Orthodox voices are brought into play in order to advance theological reflection on the sin and evil inherent in animal suffering and the soteriological implications for those who abuse and exploit the non-human creation. Academic theology can often be abstract in nature and viewed by many as irrelevant to contemporary life. I do not believe this is the case and throughout this thesis I have provided examples of how Orthodox teachings can be applied to contemporary animal suffering issues. In addition I have provided an outline for a seminary project which focuses on a) the spiritual and ontological interconnectedness of God’s Creation; b) the seminarian’s role as Icon of Christ and c) how these two elements should dictate the priest’s treatment and relationship with animals and the environment. I have also provided frameworks for a Master’s Dissertation on the theme and an Eastern Orthodox Animal Protection group. Finally, it is worth noting the impact of this research thus far, which has resulted in the first Master’s Dissertation on the theme by an Eastern Orthodox priest; a public statement by the Holy Synod of Cyprus; the establishment of an Eastern Orthodox Animal Protection group in Cyprus and an academic paper presented at an international conference on Religion and Animal Protection by one of Orthodoxy’s leading theologians, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. Leading Orthodox theologians are aware of this thesis and are supportive of its vision; as a result I believe the previously identified gap between the theory and the practice will reduce in the foreseeable future.
Date of Award29 Jun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorAndreas Andreopoulos (Supervisor) & Robin Baker (Supervisor)


  • Eastern Orthodox Christianity
  • theology
  • ethics
  • soteriology
  • animals
  • suffering
  • sin
  • patristics
  • science
  • philosophy

Cite this

Towards an Animal Theology in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
Nellist, C. (Author). 29 Jun 2017

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis