Monday, January 12, 2009

animals in heaven? (cont'd)

Following my recent post on this, quoting a letter to the editor, Joel Harris made some interesting remarks. So, I'm going to reproduce those-- and my response-- in this separate post.

Joel said:
If there is no reason in heaven to marry or be given in marriage, I really doubt that I will need my cat or dog in heaven either.

First, a smaller point: Joel compares the continuation of marriage to the presence of animals. But those are fundamentally different, since the former is a fundamental relationship between humans-- which might easily be changed in the next phase of eternal life.

Second, there's a lame joke or two here-- for example, about how cat-haters could be in Heaven with cats, or wondering how cat-haters could make it into Heaven at all.

But the larger issue: The question isn't what we "need" in Heaven, but what will be there. (What do we "need" Heaven?)

I don't know if the label fits Joel, but this is one area where "conservatives" often have an attenuated worldview: a utilitarian focus on the practical with little or nothing to say about beauty. This comes from too little emphasis on Creation within their theology. (Strong theology must be well-grounded in Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. It is common for people to have significant weaknesses in one or two of those areas.)

Or putting it another way: why
wouldn't God want one set of His awesome creations to be in the next phase of eternal life for Him and believers to enjoy?

In Heaven-- a must-have book on the topic-- Randy Alcorn explores a few angles on the prospective presence of animals (and even pets) in his 18 (!) pages on the topic.

Key points:

-Given the use of the word
nephesh and psyche in the context of animals, it is likely that they have souls of some type. (Alcorn is quick to say that they don't have human souls.) Alcorn cites Habermas and Moreland: "It wasn't until the advent of the 17th-century Enlightenment...that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization."

-In II Peter 3:5-7, we see a direct parallel between the Final Judgment and the Flood. Since the Noahic Covenant included animals, one might reasonably infer that God's plan for the renewed Earth would also include animals. (Alcorn argues that the New Earth will include extinct species as well.)

-"Eden was perfect. But without animals, Eden wouldn't be Eden."

-Throughout the Bible we're told that the animals praise God. (See: Ps 148:10-13, 150:6; Rev 5:13-- as one of eight such references in Revelation.) Such verses might be figurative or hyperbolic, but a literalist is stuck here for sure!

-"When Adam was created, God surrounded him with animals. When Noah was delivered from the Flood, God surrounded him with animals. When Jesus was born, God surrounded him with animals." Interesting!

-What does it mean in Romans 8:21-23 that creation will be redeemed?

-Lk 3:6 says "all flesh will see the salvation of God" and the term there (sarx) includes animals.

-He speculates about the possibility of talking animals (something anticipated by Lewis in the Narnia series) by noting the talking serpent of Genesis 3 and the talking eagle of Rev 8:13-- as well as a sermon from John Wesley where he speculates that animals lost some of their understanding, wills, passions, liberty and choice in the Fall.

I would concur with Alcorn that this is not conclusive. But given these evidences, I think the burden falls on those who seek to disprove the existence of animals in Heaven.


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