Professor the SchnauzerI want you to meet Professor the Schnauzer.
Emily and I have had Professor for almost four years and he has been such a joy in our life. We realize he is only an animal, but there is something about unconditional adoration from an animal that can make the worst of days turn into a beautiful evening. So when Professor gets older and dies – the question naturally arises – will we see our dog again?

Aristotle on the Soul
If animals have souls, just like humans do, then it would seem they should certainly be in heaven. But do animals have souls? For Aristotle, souls existed as a hierarchy in nature. This chain of being starting with the lowest form of existence – that is to merely exist – as a rock would exist in nature, then gradually moves upward. Rocks as such do not have souls proper; a soul must belong to a living being. But moving up the chain of being we encounter plants which have the ability to grow and reproduce. Plants then have a soul specific to plant life, and similarly animals have souls specific to animal life, which is suited for them because they have the power of movement and perception. Human beings also possess existence, reproduction/growth, movement/perception, but they also possess the intellect, and because they possess a soul particular to humans, an immortal soul capable of rational thought, their soul will exist independently of their body after bodily death.[1]

Many people try to conclude from the fact that animals have animal souls, incapable of rational thought, tied to its material existence, that when the animal dies so does their soul cease to exist.  However, it does not necessary follow that there are no animals in heaven based upon this argument, rather, the soul of the animal does not continue to exist after bodily death and subsequently has no necessity to enter heaven or hell. This does not preclude the notion though that God could recreate animals in heaven.

On Creation
In Genesis, God creates first the heavens and the earth. Establishing the chain of being He then creates the plant life, followed by the animals, and concluding with mankind. It appears that God works according to a hierarchy of being, and because all of God’s creation was made in perfection, man was given dominion over the animals.[2] After the fall, the the order is shaken. Man’s dominion becomes limited, but does that mean that it must remain limited? In the New Heaven and New Earth when creation is perfected once again, it seems reasonable that there should be plant life and animal life also. This time however, no fall can shake the order, and subsequently it seems that dominion should be restored to its perfect state.[3]

“Then the world shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.”[5]

Scripture seems to support the notion of animals in heaven as the armies ride out of the clouds upon white horses. Whether or not this is to be taken literally or not is up for debate, but it seems to be alluding to animals in heaven [4]. And even if it is not to be taken literally, it is important to note that animals recur throughout scripture in a perfected state in the new heaven and new earth. Scripture could have excluded them, whether to be taken literally or figuratively, in Scripture entirely when speaking of the future Kingdom.

St. FrancisFrancisBirds
St. Francis preached to the birds, and while this does not show that they needed to hear the Gospel for their salvation, for as we have already seen the soul of an animal is not immortal and does not continue into the afterlife, the animal kingdom is created by God and can also show reverence to it’s originator. As the story goes, St. Francis preached to the birds, telling them to show gratitude to their Creator, and after his sermon concluded the birds bowed with dignity, rejoiced in song, and flew away to spread the good news[6]. If the animals can serve our Lord in this life, should we anticipate that in the next they will be unable to do so? or that God would no longer desire His creation and His creation no longer desire to serve Him?

C.S. Lewis
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis explains that animals as they were created and intended to be, were in a state of subordination to mankind. Because animals were intended to be in this state, what we call the ‘natural animal’, meaning the animal as found undomesticated and in the wild is actually the fallen state of the animal. Instead, the most ‘natural’ kind of animal is the animal that has been tamed and domesticated, such as a pet dog or cat or even a horse. The fact that they seem to be a sentient being, although maybe not conscious to use Lewis’ language is directly related to man exercising his dominion over the animals. Lewis concludes from this view that it is in man that animals are fulfilled and likewise man is fulfilled in Christ. Lewis doesn’t argue for the necessity of animal immortality according to this argument, but does argue that if they do possess an immortality it is through their human counterparts exercising their dominion over them.

I think I enjoyed Lewis’ view on the notion of animals in heaven the best when he ascribes the tameness of animals to their natural order and human dominion.

“The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal-the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts… If a good sheepdog seems ‘almost human’ that is because a good shepherd has made it so. [7]”

Similarly, if a good person seems almost Christlike it is precisely because of the fulfillment of Christ and through Christ’s power in his life.

So will we see Professor the Schnauzer again?
We don’t know. Although I agree with Aristotle that animals do not possess an immortal soul, and that their soul’s existence is tied to their material being, it seems presumptive to assert that animals will not exist in heaven. In fact, given the visions, the relationship of saints to animals, the examples from scripture of animals as being made in perfection, the animal kingdom’s fallen nature being contingent upon the fall of man, and its restoration under the dominion of man; I see no contradiction in believing that God may potentially recreate them or allow animals to possess the Kingdom of Heaven, in order to serve Him and glorify Him.

 

 

[1] https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/psyche.htm
[2] Genesis 1-2, 4
[3] Revelation 21
[4] Revelation 19:14
[5] Isaiah 11:6-9
[6] http://www.fisheaters.com/animals7.html ;”St. Francis Preaches to the Birds”
[7] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain; Chapter 9.

The opinions expressed by the DPS blog authors and those providing comments are theirs alone; they are not necessarily the expressions or beliefs of either the Dead Philosophers Society or Holy Apostles College & Seminary.