Original Research

Suffering in evolutionary biology and Christian theology: Mutually exclusive notions?

Wessel Bentley
Theologia Viatorum | Vol 47, No 1 | a182 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/tv.v47i1.182 | © 2023 Wessel Bentley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 December 2022 | Published: 31 May 2023

About the author(s)

Wessel Bentley, The Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The question of suffering, specifically that experienced by human beings, has been contentious in the discourses of biology and religion. The dilemma, especially in the Christian faith tradition has been to reconcile suffering with the idea of a benevolent deity in whose image humans are believed to have been created. Evolutionary biology, and specifically the field of cognitive psychology, contends that the experience of suffering may have more pragmatic origins, while not necessarily being to the benefit of the individual, may be a mechanism that favours the longevity of a species. This article explores the understanding of ‘natural suffering’ from the perspective of evolutionary biology and Christian faith convictions and proposes principles that can facilitate a mutually beneficial religion and science discourse.

Contribution: This article investigates suffering in evolutionary biology and Christian theology respectively. Its interdisciplinary nature contributes towards the science and religion discourse.


suffering; Christian theology; evolutionary biology; theodicy; science and religion.


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