Sunday, January 11, 2009

animals in heaven?

From a letter to the editor of Christianity Today (hat tip: LifeinView)...

In "Keeping Pets in Their Place" [April], Charles Colson asserts, "The Scriptures tell us that animals are soulless creatures," but offers no textual evidence. The reason? There isn't any. Of the 682 uses of the word nephesh (the usual word for "soul") in the Hebrew Bible, 21 have reference to animals (e.g., Prov. 12:10) and 9 have reference to God (e.g., Isa. 1:14), suggesting the "continuity of creation." Not a single verse states or implies that only humans have a nephesh. It's true that only humans are created in the moral image of God (Gen. 1:26), but it doesn't logically follow that because my cat isn't morally accountable before God, she won't join me in the life to come.

In his treatment of this question, Andrew Linzey (Christianity and the Rights of Animals) concludes that Thomist theology, not the Scriptures, is the source of the "soulless animals" theology...

If I remember correctly, this is also the conclusion Randy Alcorn reaches in his excellent book, Heaven.


At January 12, 2009 at 11:26 AM , Blogger Joel Harris said...

I find it somewhat funny that there is a typo in one of the quotes: "but it doesn't logically follow that because my eat isn't morally accountable before God, she won't join me in the life to come."

We have to be the first generation in Christianity who would even contemplate this issue. 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.

At January 12, 2009 at 11:42 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Thanks for catching the typo!

Are we the first generation to contemplate this? I (highly) doubt it. I suspect we're thinking about more than in the past, though.

Interesting assertions otherwise. I'll post separately on those.

At January 12, 2009 at 12:08 PM , Blogger Joel Harris said...

Personally I thought the typo was more interesting and also one that provides a better context of thought about this issue. The implication of the discussion is that it is OUR possession of an animal that makes it worthy of going to heaven--unless you want to conclude that "all dogs go to heaven"--which would include cows, pigs, aardvarks, etc.

We are the first generation that I am aware of that treat our pets as if they are people. Many young couples talk about their pets being their kids. We are the ones that talk incredibly about "humanely" treating animals--i.e. treating an animal as a human. Mistreating a pet is a crime considered more heinous than murdering baby inside his pregnant mother.

I honestly doubt that God has any intent to save dogs--as comforting as they are to us on earth. To me this sounds like bending God to meet our image of Him.


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