In this article @Bethany.Sollereder describes heaven as being incomplete without those creatures which have no rational souls - animals, like our pets. “Heaven would not be heaven without my dog, so my dog must come.” The idea is spread out to those creatures who are “in need of a new life”. I want to pause there, and ask, doesn’t this apply to all living creatures, since all living creatures are in need of a new life and have experienced some degree of suffering? What about my daughter, an atheist, without whom my heaven will be incomplete?
Welcome to our corner of the internet, Mary! This is an interesting topic. There are a range of views represented here in this community and I am sure people will be keen to share.
In the meantime, would you be happy to share a bit more about what you think on the subject and what leads you to those conclusions?
Welcome again. Great to have your voice.
One of my questions for the article author, Bethany, or probably just more immediately to you and others here, Mary - is this: Are you a vegetarian? Or put another way: while I like these sentiments about heaven too - does this add a real layer of awkwardness for those of us who are unrepentant meat eaters?
Granted, must of us probably don’t cultivate a relationship with Bessy the cow like we might Fido, our dog (at least in much of western culture). But still - it does seem awfully selective that we would want heaven populated with our favorite cute little fluff balls - those things to which we can attribute at least some relational personality so as to miss them in their absence. But my only relationship with a mosquito is my interest in not relating to it at all. If all humans agree about that, should mosquitos be kept out of heaven then? But if so, the cute little wrens flitting around heaven have less to eat. So it seems to me that we have an anticipated nostalgia in play for a complete, healthy, and enjoyable ecological system such as we think we almost taste now - if we could just get rid of the bad or ostensibly not-divinely-natural parts that corrupt it now.
And maybe that is what the escaton with the friendly lions, oxes, and adders is all about. But if it was truly wild, it’s quite a stretch to see how that wildness can come without predatory danger that is so necessary in our ecology here and now. Vegetarian lions … just aren’t quite … real lions as we know them. I wonder if the paradisical language used isn’t an “over-the-top” appeal just making use of our current experiences of unwanted violence and fear, to tell us that somehow all the essential goodness of all these things is preserved while the fear and fallenness of it all will have been weeded out. How lions, lambs, and our dogs, cats, … and mice and hamsters all continue to relate to each other and to us, at least in the visions of the prophets of old, that remains an impenetrable mystery to me.
Perhaps we are called to also summon our own visions today for what the established and final kingdom could be like. I do like visions that some modern luminaries such as Lewis painted in their own stories (Lewis’ “Last Battle” depiction of the final Narnia). I wonder if we aren’t following in the footsteps of those prophets of old by attending to the loves that the Spirit raises our eyes toward today?
Continuing thoughts from prior post …
Regarding the possibility of our continuing that prophetic anticipation tradition of old …
And with that anticipation would come a fearlessness about learning of new loves and new things never before dreampt of. The prophets of old couldn’t see everything yet that we now are privileged to see in Christ. But they anticipated that hope even if they didn’t yet know what it would look like. In the same way, once perfect love has cast out all our fears of the unknown, maybe we too can “give it our best shots” - our own modern versions of their “friendly lions and adders.” All the while knowing too that future generations privileged with yet more hindsights and insights might be led yet higher to more lovely things than we now were able to dream of - but that we too along with them could live into all of that, just as the prophets of old are also now enjoying Christ along with us.
Always “come further up and further in” came the ever repeated cry in Lewis’ new Narnia. I can imagine that same appeal - or one much like it being part of our eschaton as well. At least that is a lovely thought to me.
Hello, and thanks for the warm welcome. As for my thoughts on this topic, I’m in a bit of a “questioning everything” season. Having come from a very conservative Christian background, I was taught to not even ask such a question lol. But when I read this article, and followed the author’s line of “what if”, I guess I was just hoping to hear from someone who has spent more time with that thought than the few moments I’ve had with it lol. I’m almost afraid to entertain it.
I actually do have a daughter who is an atheist. She is 17 and has a whole faith journey ahead of her, and I just want to be there for her in whatever she needs. If heaven won’t have her in it, I’d almost rather not go
Interesting to speculate about how ecology will work in the new creation but I don’t think the “Resurrection of all animal individuals to a new life in heaven” as proposed by Bethany S. works logically? Presumably both herbivores and carnivores have “suffered” in this life, and so both presumably both deserve a second-crack-at-a-good-life in heaven, according to Bethany. But to fully "enjoy the life it missed out on ", a carnivore would need to eat other animals, hence perpetuating the cycle of suffering in heaven. So there seems to be an endless-loop of animal resurrections needed according to Bethany’s idea. Of course, one might speculate something like each individual T-Rex from the past would be resurrected as a herbivore…but that would entail such a drastic shift of behaviour and “character” of the original animal type, one can hardly imagine that this is the “same” animal coming back in the next life as the “same” creature…??
I would certainly think so since I don’t believe human beings have rational souls either. That is from the religion of Gnosticism and other religions which believe in transmigration and reincarnation. I am not a believer in such stuff.
But I do believe that all living things have a spiritual body (1 Cor 15), though most living things even animals may not have our sort of spiritual individuality. I do believe that some of our humanity rubs off on animals when they have prolonged contact with us. I expect to see them in heaven.
So dinosaurs? I do expect dinosaurs in heaven, but not because individual dinosaurs “go to heaven.” But because people have great love and interest in dinosaurs and will want to see more of them.
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Obviously no one can give info concerning someone’s fate. We also can’t really say how the afterlife will be. There are a lot of opinions about it. There are a lot of good arguments for universalism, though I land on conditional immortality.
There are a lot of good verses on restoration though.
New American Standard Bible
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only that, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons and daughters, the redemption of our body.
Seems like all of creation is awaiting it just like* us.
I am a bit uncertain about what to think about conscious ‘souls’ living after our body dies. The hebrew word sometimes translated as ‘soul’ (nefesh) probably means just conscious life in humans and other animals, as told in the creation story. We do not have ‘souls’, we are ‘souls’. This suggests a total blackout between death and resurrection.
On the other hand, there are very many reports suggesting that some form of consciousness may survive after death. This challenges the idea of total blackness between our death and resurrection. Although I think the total blackness hypothesis would be the simplest option, an open mind cannot reject the alternative hypothesis because of the countless reports.
Anyhow, if animals will enter ‘heaven’, they would have to be part of a similar resurrection as humans. The number of animals that have lived during the millions of years is absolutely enormous. The animal resurrection would be a huge event. I do not see any signs of this in the biblical scriptures. These scriptures do not tell everything, so there is always a possibility. A more realistic approach is that we think of ‘heaven’ as a place that fits our personal hopes. Expectations about pets and other animals entering ‘heaven’ only reflect our personal hopes, nothing else. We have to wait until we see what the truth is.
Yep. That is why I don’t believe in it. I think the belief in rational souls comes from Greek philosophy, the Gnostics, and other religions.
Yes I think that is the proper use of the Biblical term - a synonym for “person” or “life.”
I don’t think non-existence agrees with other passages in the Bible which speak of ghosts/spirits – dead spirits like shadows in need of resurrection. But “blackout” in the sense of a lack of consciousness is possible. I have often suggested that without a resurrection the spirit may experience diminishing consciousness (consequence of being devoured by one’s sins) so that “eternal torment” may not mean eternal conscious torment.
Paul says in 1 Cor 15 “If there is a physical body then there is a spiritual body.” But it doesn’t do anything until we die, “what you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”
Just semantics? Not quite. The difference is that the rational soul of the Gnostics and other religions believing in transmigration and reincarnation is that this is something inserted into bodies to bring them to life, give them a mind, and animate them. That is what I don’t believe in. The spiritual body taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians is something which comes from the physical body. He is quite clear about that. “But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical.”
Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
1 Thessalonians 4:14
Let us not imagine that the soul sleeps in insensibility. “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,” is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They “sleep in Jesus,” but their souls are before the throne of God, praising him day and night in his temple, singing hallelujahs to him who washed them from their sins in his blood. The body sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass. But what is this sleep? The idea connected with sleep is “rest,” and that is the thought which the Spirit of God would convey to us. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. Sleep shuts fast the door of the soul, and bids all intruders tarry for a while, that the life within may enter its summer garden of ease. The toil-worn believer quietly sleeps, as does the weary child when it slumbers on its mother’s breast. Oh! happy they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. Their quiet repose shall never be broken until God shall rouse them to give them their full reward. Guarded by angel watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, they sleep on, the inheritors of glory, till the fulness of time shall bring the fulness of redemption. What an awaking shall be theirs! They were laid in their last resting place, weary and worn, but such they shall not rise. They went to their rest with the furrowed brow, and the wasted features, but they wake up in beauty and glory. The shrivelled seed, so destitute of form and comeliness, rises from the dust a beauteous flower. The winter of the grave gives way to the spring of redemption and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since it, through the divine power, disrobes us of this work-day garment, to clothe us with the wedding garment of incorruption. Blessed are those who “sleep in Jesus.”
The idea of a spiritual body that comes out of us when we die is interesting. Does it ‘live’ or exist in us while we live this live? Could it be what the past generations of christians were thinking when they spoke about an eternal ‘soul’? What is the relationship between the spiritual body and consciousness?
In the creation story, when Adam and (other) animals were given life, the expression used was the same, “living ‘soul’ (nefesh)”. If humans have a spiritual body, do animals have it?
I doubt it simply because the number of animals that have lived is so huge. There would not be enough of space in the ‘heaven’ if all animals would have a spiritual body and would resurrect. In addition, the ‘heaven’ of predators and parasites would be the hell of herbivores and other prey animals.
And what about our distant ancestors, more or less primitive primates? Assuming that humans have evolved from more ‘primitive’ species, would we meet these ancestors in the ‘heaven’?
The quote from Spurgeon shows why he has been called the ‘Prince of Preachers’. Beautiful preaching.