Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pets in Heaven Part IV

How do pets fit in?

Deem states[1]: “Throughout the Bible, there is no mention of pets running around in heaven. The only creatures described in heaven are angels and humans. The Bible indicates that God is a spirit.” Again, I also suggest there is no mention of Children (babies-toddlers) running around either but to emphatically conclude there are no babies in Heaven could and would be considered absurd to Christians. Therefore, we should be careful not create a view based upon one scripture (especially apocalyptical texts), or simply create an invalid or unsound case from silence. Again, I ask why would God create animals, call it good, then change his mind and not be good. And it is true we know that Adam being alone is not good. Secondly, to be more correct, I believe that God is not a spirit, but God is spirit in John 4:24 God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.[2] While this may be a semantic argument, it could make a theological difference for some.

Deem also states: “However, animals are non-spiritual beings. The higher animals (including the ones we usually choose as pets) are soulish creatures, which is why they can relate to us. However, they lack a spirit, which we humans have, so that their fate is different from ours”. This statement could be controversial to someone that holds a dichotomist[3] viewpoint concerning the body and soul. A dichotomist, which is the majority of historical Christianity, would view a person have both material and immaterial counterparts. In other words; a person has a body and a soul/spirit/heart/mind. Deem would support the trichotomist[4] view which separates into three parts; body, soul, and spirit.

Secondly, from a trichotomist view (perhaps such as Deem’s) where does the (our) soul go if heaven is only for spiritual beings? To recap, Deem also states; “The Bible indicates that God is a spirit. Angels are also spiritual beings. This is why humans take on a spiritual body so that we can be with God and the angels.” Since Deem separates the body, soul, and spirit into three, where does that leave the soul? What would happen to the soul? Hyper-spiritualizing of the text may not be the best way to interpret the Bible. While I am not sure that is the implication of Deem’s article, it certainly looks to be that way at face value.

We know that animals played a significant part for sacrifices (partial atonement). Some animal lovers may view this in a negative aspect, but the fact of the matter was the when a sacrifice was offered it was usually the best of the pick. Often times I imagine how difficult it was to raise these animals; have a relationship with them for a time span and then no longer have them. It must have been difficult for them to offer their animals and it would have left the owner remorseful (albeit some did purchase animals that were not their own for sacrifice). We know that animals are no longer needed for sacrifices.

In Genesis Chapter 4 is one of the first instances within the Bible. Gen 4:2 Then she gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel took care of the flocks, while Cain cultivated the ground. Gen 4:3 At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the Lord. 4:4 But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock – even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering.

After the fall we find in Genesis chapter six that God regretted making humankind upon the earth.

Gen 6:6 The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended. 6:7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth – everything from humankind to animals, including creatures that move on the ground and birds of the air, for I regret that I have made them.” 6:8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

6:11 The earth was ruined in the sight of God; the earth was filled with violence. 6:12 God saw the earth, and indeed it was ruined, for all living creatures on the earth were sinful. 6:13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided that all living creatures must die, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. Now I am about to destroy them and the earth.

From the NET Bible the notes from these passages:
“suggesting that the author intends to picture all living creatures, humankind and animals, as guilty of moral failure. This would explain why the animals, not just humankind, are victims of the ensuing divine judgment. The OT sometimes views animals as morally culpable (Gen 9:5; Exod 21:28-29; Jonah 3:7-8). The OT also teaches that a person’s sin can contaminate others (people and animals) in the sinful person’s sphere (see the story of Achan, especially Josh 7:10). So the animals could be viewed here as morally contaminated because of their association with sinful humankind.”

Are animals morally culpable (held morally or legally responsible)? I strongly encourage you to grab your Bible and read the following verses: (Gen 9:5; Exod 21:28-29; Jonah 3:7-8) and reason with these scriptures as it pertains to morally culpability, and divine judgment. While I am not saying directly that being morally culpable equates to our pets in heaven, it does give some evidence or possibility that we have valid reasoning to believe our pets could go to heaven. Also it makes us aware that our sin could contaminate animals, so we should be aware of this as a possibility. I will simply let the reader do further study and relate how we are indeed like animals concerning judgment.

We also see some domesticated (perhaps pets of some sort, but most likely referred to livestock formally) were also on the ark. Genesis 8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and domestic animals that were with him in the ark. God caused a wind to blow over the earth and the waters receded. We can also see that after the flood animals are now to be fearful of man:

Genesis 9:2 Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority.


Other noteworthy passages:

Psalms 36:6 Your justice is like the highest mountains, your fairness like the deepest sea; you preserve mankind and the animal kingdom.

NET Notes:
“God’s justice/fairness is firm and reliable like the highest mountains and as abundant as the water in the deepest sea. The psalmist uses a legal metaphor to describe God’s preservation of his creation. Like a just judge who vindicates the innocent, God protects his creation from destructive forces.”

Sources:

"Be thou comforted, little dog; thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail." — Martin Luther

[1] http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/pets_in_heaven.html#n05#n05

[2] http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Joh&chapter=4&verse=24

[3] Dichotomy [dye-cawt’-uh-mee](Greek dicha, “two parts,” and Greek temnein, “to cut”)
The philosophical teaching about the constitution of man that humans are made up of two essential parts: material and immaterial. Material: all that is physical (body). Non-material: all that is non-material (spirit/soul/heart/mind). Adherents include Augustine, John Calvin, Hodge, along with most of historic orthodox Christianity. This belief is in contrast to trichotomy, the belief that man is made up of three essential parts: body, soul, and spirit. http://wordoftheday.reclaimingthemind.org/blogs/2009/08/31/dichotomy/

[4] Trichotomy [trye-cawt’-uh-mee]
(Greek trikha, “three parts,” and Greek temnein, “to cut”)
The philosophical teaching about the constitution of man that humans are made up of three essential parts: body, soul, and spirit. Body: all that is physical. Soul: reason, emotions, will, memories, personality, dispositions. Spirit: the seat of our being, that which relates to God. Adherents include Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Watchman Nee, Bill Gothard, C.I. Scofield. This belief is in contrast to dichotomy, the belief that man is made up of two essential parts: material (body) and immaterial (soul/spirit).
http://wordoftheday.reclaimingthemind.org/blogs/2009/08/30/trichotomy/