Will my dog go to heaven?

Christianity requires that to be saved, one must accept Jesus as his/her saviour.

In my upbringing, the salvation of those who never heard the word of Christ such as aborted fetuses, people born before Jesus’ time, and remote tribes; or individuals mentally incapable of making such a commitment were/will be judged differently. Fine. All will be revealed, right? But what about animals?

Other animals have thinking abilities and can make choices, though not nearly as adequately as we humans. Still, we speak of them as having personalities and I would say they have souls. (See In dog's image for more details).

Isaiah 11:6-9 indicate that animals will be in heaven. (See this heavenly picture). Perhaps those verses are metaphorical. Still, I want to know, will my dog go to heaven?

That is, does he have an eternal soul? If he does, what happens to that soul when he dies? If he goes to heaven, what will be the form of his spirit? What will be the form of mine? Will our spirits be equal in terms of what we continue to experience and learn? If he has been deemed to have chased too many cats and scared away too many proselytizers at my door that could have otherwise saved me, will he go to hell? Will he be in limbo?

Are these not ridiculous questions?

Yes and no. I suppose it depends on who you ask. What we are really asking is what it means to be alive and human and how that is different from the rest of the natural and living world. To atheists these are ridiculous questions. When my dog dies, just like it was before he was born, his spirit will cease to exist. It's the way it is with all of us. Fine. Next topic.

All theologies are constructed from perceptions of the natural and living world. Unsurprisingly, many theologies are human-centric. Judeo-Christian theologies are built around the human condition, first delineating what it means to be alive and human apart from the rest of the natural and living world and from there, God’s role toward humanity and the remainder of the living and natural world can also be defined.

Well, that’s the goal anyway. Given other living creatures, is there a theology out there that is justifiable in any way?

Let’s consider the question of other animals’ salvation. Let’s say that my dog goes to heaven and that I don’t. How is that in any way fair? I’d have been much better off being a dog or to have never existed. Let’s say he goes to hell. How is that in any way fair to him? What did he do wrong? Let’s say he just stays in limbo. You might as well send him to hell unless there are frisbees in limbo. Oh, but wait, then that would be heaven.

You can probably also see where this slippery slope is leading. If my dog has an eternal soul, then so do other critters including rats, snakes, bugs, and even each of the trillion E-coli bacterium that leave my gut and get flushed down the toilet every day. Think of the massive genocide I’m performing with each SWOOSH! The way out of this conundrum is to simply believe that my dog’s soul is not eternal.

Okay, so let’s just say that when he’s gone he’s gone. That also opens up a can of worms. First of all, we can ask “Why is he even here?” What’s the meaning of life for my dog? Why would God create him for some blip in time and then let him disappear? Is it to test me in some way? Is he just a gift from God? I suppose Genesis 1:26 can be interpreted that way, but it still seems pretty unfair. A little too human-centric for my tastes, literally, if animals are also here so that we can eat them as promoted in this link by Answers in Genesis.

Now, the “E” word, evolution, does not muck up this muddiness really any further. There was a moment when pre-humans transcended from having a temporal soul to an eternal soul. If you want to believe in a literal, hand-crafted-from-dirt Adam and Eve, it’s this same moment that discriminates us from the other animals. What is peculiar is that it seems that the moment we realized our mortality is the same moment we became immortal. It was at this moment that we also realized there was a God that we chose evil which severed the relationship. Hence, the need for salvation.

Huh? Theists, help me out here.

12 comments:

7K said...

'Fraid I'm not much help, but great stuff again, dude. Thanks just for jogging my safe little Christian world.

My expectation is, of course, resurrection. It appears to be ALL who are resurrected. And all "things" return to Christ as well. Thus I anticipate lots of animals and even new creatures in the wonderful world of tomorrow.

As for bugs and diseases, well, whatever "life" those things have now, they will apparently be extinguished ~ but I would put an order in for grasshoppers and butterflies 'cause I like them.

You open up questions about "heaven" and "hell" that are very interesting. Most of what we have on these "places" is metaphorical in character and thus they remain enigmatic.

"Hell" is actually a misnomer that cropped up in the King James translation. It was used as a generic term and it mainly was, I think, a misleading translation of the Greek concept of "Hades" which is analagous to the Hebrew rendering "Sheol" or "grave." I don't think most Jews to this day believe in "hell" as such, and certainly not the Augustinian concept of "eternal punishment." Augustine slipped on that one and inadvertantly contributed to a lot of mental illness over the centuries.

Hades is the "place" where ALL dead souls go. It was the Hellenistic concept, and Jesus used it to describe "the judgment."
Judgment, in the biblical sense, is "justice." Justice means the punishment fits the crime. Augustine gave us the heavenly sadist as our picture of God. Bad move.

The Bible describes God as just. No just God would put anyone in a torture chamber for endless ages, much less ~ as in some Calvinist doctrine ~ those who simply fail to believe in Jesus. It's patently absurd, and a false teaching. Very destructive and dishonoring of God. So theologians have had to dance around it for centuries, and people like you, rational folks, have had to try to avoid it like the plague.

Simplicity. The Bible teaches reciprocity: and life doesn't always dish this out. If Hitler gets his just desserts, it has to be somewhere else. He didn't pay for his atrocities here.

"I will repay," says God. But He doesn't have to stick those who died as fetuses, or who never heard the gospel, in some hell-hole. Give me a break. Furthermore, He doesn't have to annihilate the "refuse". Jesus is all about rehabilitation. Why would God make these fantastic humans just to live for a spurt of time and then throw them out? Slow down Christians; we need to rethink this stuff. Our scare tactics aren't working any more.

As for evolution: It does grate on Genesis a little, especially the Adam and Eve concept. Easy to resolve by making them allegorical for mankind: but both Jesus and the apostles treat them as real people. So I don't have any easy answers there, although I am a believer in evolution. At least I don't have a problem with it. It seems to me to be the real thing.

Does this make the Bible a myth or fairy tale? If we take it 100% literally as many Fundies do. But it is really bigger than that. The Bible is astounding in its depth, imagery, and connectivity. And it is all one big story, and you and I are in it. And Christ is the centerpiece of the whole story.

psiloiordinary said...

Don't worry. The little folk will look after him.

Tom said...

7K, Even in my believing days I did not accept that hell was eternal. My particular brand of Calvinism actually gave the interpretation that hell was a consumption of evil, possibly a real fire, but in any case a momentary event but where the effects of hell would be eternal. That is, evil would be gone forever.

When you say all "things" return to Christ, you imply that my dog will be there (with or without me). But then you say grasshoppers and bacterium will not. I do not understand the discrepancy. Can you elaborate?

Psi, as long as there are nice rolling hills of grass and the gold frisbee actually flies and doesn't chip his teeth, and since he also gets bored with harp music, Leprechaun heaven might be just the place!

7K said...

So hell was not a hurdle for you. What was? Just that you no longer found your faith rational? Or the questions you had overwhelmed what you felt you got from your religious journey? Something like that. Cognitive dissonance disease?

Actually, with no threat of hell, I suppose some might say, "Then, so what?"

Perhaps, too, in your Christian journey you never really connected with Christ. There are many who grew up in churches who said that had not happened to them.

Anyway, as for your dog being "there" and you not, my understanding at present is that you will die and be surprised by what is on the other side. It won't be annihilation like you think. At that moment, atheistic and theistic arguments will dissolve and we will all be face to face with the savior. And I do hope your dog is there to greet you.

I said I like grasshoppers and hope they are there. My understanding of scripture is that there will be no more disease, war, famine, and, I assume, pesky critters. It's Paradise, whatever that is. I picture it as going where no man has gone before. The cosmos will be ours. We were made for it. Yours too. I just think you will be in for a pleasant surprise.

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,

It seems that much of your thinking about Christianity is preoccupied with "who gets into heaven and who doesn't." It is a mentality fostered in conservative and fundamentalist churches, where such questions are viewed as of central importance. I do so little thinking about such things that I have nothing much to add to the conversation. For me, such things are better left for future retrospective thought ... I am content to leave them for that future day, and I have a very strong belief that from that point of view, all will be seen as completely fair and just and right. I think we will then understand that all of reality could have played out no other way.

Of course that doesn't deal with your basic question, which is I think: "what do these tongue-in-cheek questions say about the truth-claims of Christian faith?" But the questions have little to do with my faith, and what I see as important. "Going to heaven" or "not going to heaven" are concepts that rarely enter my mind. (The Bible has much more to say about heaven coming here than about us going “there”.)

The good news of the gospel is so much more interesting and compelling than it is portrayed by much of the church.

I do believe that the whole of life upon the earth is a part of a grand cosmic scheme to annihilate evil, to use the superior power of life itself to defeat death. Resurrection on a cosmic scale. And I do believe that mankind, the very late arriving spirit beings that we are, plays a pivotal role in this scheme. As for questions of ultimate destinations: I have my doubts about 7k’s universalism (but I am not closed to it); I don’t know about animals; and I have some unique ideas about hell, though I doubt very much that there will be anything like eternal suffering. All of these questions pale into insignificance when I consider the role that God is asking faith-filled humankind to fulfill in his very long-range plan.

Thank you, btw, for the kind words you posted earlier today at OutsideTheBox.

Tom said...

Cliff,

My upbringing was fairly apocalyptic which might be fostering a preoccupation with heaven, but at the same time, I don't believe I am off the mark in my depiction and understanding of core Christianity. Is not the central theme of Christianity man's fall from grace and our sentence to death, but that redemption and eternal life can be attained through Jesus who died for us?

Admittedly tongue-in-cheek, I'm asking "What makes us humans so special that we should have heaven come down to us?" You say we play a pivotal role in the grand scheme of ridding the universe of death. What makes us more special than chimps? What is it that is different about my spirit than a chimp's? Why did God need to come in human form instead of chimp form? What exactly is sin? I'm not asking about casual truth-claims of Christianity. While I might dub it as "going to heaven", I'm asking about salvation, the core of Christianity, which I assume has a lot to do with your faith.

7K said,
So hell was not a hurdle for you. What was? Just that you no longer found your faith rational? Or the questions you had overwhelmed what you felt you got from your religious journey? Something like that. Cognitive dissonance disease?

In a nutshell, yes.

What I will be describing in my blog is my inability to piece together a theology where I could fill in the gaps with faith. Biology is/was the driving force.

Science is filled with gaps. In many cases, there are no contradictions and any such gaps in knowledge make for yet further hypotheses. Sometimes, of course, the data is (or appears) contradictory. This generates more complex models and theories, or the reinterpretation of the data. Sometimes the holes and contradictions in knowledge remain open for the unknown future.

From this sort of bird's eye view of science, theologies operate similarly. They provide a framework of what is known and draw on faith for the gaps and contradictions. They remodel themselves over time on individual and cultural scales.

So, if there's no hell and science and religion sort of have the same basis of taking what is known and use faith and assumptions to fill the unknowns, why not have both?

Well, in this case, science and religion themselves conflict. The difficulty for me is the mounting contradictions I get the more I study biology. I cannot build a theology that gives me enough of a foothold to then have faith fill the rest. It is too inconsistent and contradictory. Now, I've made this statement before: Science cannot disprove God, but evolution highlights God must be incredibly removed if he exists. When one accepts evolution as an entirely natural process that spawns complex physiologies and behaviors, then there is a natural basis for philosophy, culture, morality, and creative thought, including the imagining of a God construct and what it would be like to live forever. So, when push comes to shove, biology as an objective science trumps what I "know" about God which is entirely subjective.

So, not here and now, but over the course of several threads, let's argue the point that I am claiming biology=atheism. Notice I did not say "evolution=atheism", but evolution is the cornerstone of biology. Implicit in evolution is the understanding that we share so much with all other living organisms. It indicates that we humans aren't so unique or special to warrant God to come in our form and be a mortal.

7K said...

Of course, "Intelligent Design" argues just the opposite, that biology = theism: that is, implicit in nature is design which suggests a designer.

The founder of I.D. is actually a lawyer and makes his arguments based primarily on law ("Darwin on Trial" was his book).

I am more interested in theistic evolution as propounded by Dr. Francis S. Collins, founder of the Human Genome Project. He sees the Genesis 1 account as allegory for the Big Bang timeline. (Also of interest is that Big Bang was discovered by a Catholic).

"So, if there's no hell and science and religion sort of have the same basis of taking what is known and use faith and assumptions to fill the unknowns, why not have both?"

I was simply saying the word "hell" was a poor choice as a generic term for Divine Reciprocity, the crying need in the world for justice, which I believe our merciful God will execute sanely, not as many in the church have come to picture as endless punishment. That paints God as insane.

"Why did God need to come in human form instead of chimp form?"

To me this is fairly obvious. The pinnacle of earth evolution at this point is homo sapien, not chimps. Chimps are the stepping-stone. The reason God would assume human form is that the process has reached its conclusion in the human. We now have the creature that resembles God. Or, as Jesus put it, "It is finished." God is ready to rest from his labors.

So, in that sense, I would think that logically Christ would become the quantum leap, so to speak, into the goal of evolution, the perfect man. The actualized superman that Neitzche only visualized.

Cliff Martin said...

7k, I’ll be honest, when you first began posting to this blog, I thought you were off-the-wall. The more I read you, the more common ground I find. Our atheist friends will likely conclude we’re both off-the-wall!

Like 7k, I find I.D. interesting, but I lean far more toward Francis Collins. I also lean toward Owen Gingerich’s understandings. He rejects I.D., but well defends his view of small case “intelligent design”, particularly as it relates to cosmology, and the extreme fine tuning of the Big Bang, an argument which he basis upon the work of Fred Hoyle. Hoyle, the British astronomer/mathematician, struggled to maintain his atheism in the face of his own conclusions about this incredible fine tuning. He wrote:

“Would you not say to yourself, ’Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.’ Of course you would . . . A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Actually, I am comfortable with the concept of blind forces in biology. In fact, as I see my faith, the Scriptures, and science converging upon ultimate truth, such blind forces are absolutely essential. They fit the evidence on all counts, for me. I would be happy to elucidate, but it would take more space than a reasonable comment here allows.

But, Tom, I look forward to your coming posts on biology=atheism. You may actually build my case for me. For you, your reasoning will suggest that “God must be incredibly removed if he exists.” For me, your reasoning will confirm what God knows: LIFE is an incredibly powerful force which does not require his manipulation, or hands-on guidance. And that God is accomplishing something profound and wonderful quite apart from continual divine interventions. Even randomness, that blind force of biology, favors the ultimate truths that Life is more powerful than Death, and Goodness overcomes Evil.

Tom said...

Cliff said,
For me, your reasoning will confirm what God knows: LIFE is an incredibly powerful force which does not require his manipulation, or hands-on guidance. And that God is accomplishing something profound and wonderful quite apart from continual divine interventions. Even randomness, that blind force of biology, favors the ultimate truths that Life is more powerful than Death, and Goodness overcomes Evil.

Whoa! Now we're talking big ideas! You do think outside the box, don't you! I hadn't really considered Life-independent-of-God before. I know that's not exactly what you're saying, but I'll be curious to hear how you fit the circle of a God who leaves life to operate on its own back "inside the box" of a personal God who created life and was human himself.

Do not look for a posting with the title "Biology=atheism". This is merely (or will be) the permeating theme of the blog. My posts will be mostly discussing the square pegs and round holes that exist between biology and (the largely Christian) God. I'll be quite curious to hear your out-of-the-box ideas.

Russ said...

Tom,

If your question, "Will my dog go to heaven?" is claimed to be outside the realm of Christian theology, then one has every right to ask, "Then, why did God save two dogs while at the same time drowning untold numbers of completely innocent infants." You can imagine the kiddies bobbing about in the waters around Noah's ark. Remember, no human child was spared, but two dogs were.

You asked, "Are these not ridiculous questions?" I say, they are not at all ridiculous, considering the priorities exhibited by the Christian God: fetuses in the womb: out; naked mole rats: in; newborn babies: out; boll weevils: in; toddlers: out; rattlesnakes: in.

7K said...

Don't these kinds of strange anomalies happen even now in tsunamis or earthquakes? It just appears there is no rhyme or reason.

I mean, it would be logical, if you were God and wanted to start over, to do it like that. Theists don't blame God for these strange things: they just accept the existential enigmas of the present world.

My confidence is in a just God who will right all wrongs, including the kinds of things you mention. This doesn't mean we should become discompassionate as some religionists do. The main teaching of Christianity is love. Obviously, many of us don't get it.

Still, what you have observed, Russ, is always puzzling. It is obviously logical, for instance, to think God is complicit in evil since he made it. And we don't understand even why it has to exist. Why bother subjecting this world to it? What's the point?

Again, faith sees through these things while rational thinking may dwell on these problems, being frustrated by the injustice of this life. Actually, that is why theists should strive to do justice, since we all, atheist or theist, can do something about it in the world. Maybe that's the point.

Jesus was subjected to injustice: being innocent he was condemned and killed. To me, this means that God too has felt the wrath of evil.
And that's the miracle. That event not only absolves God of evil, but it rights all wrong, no matter who is responsible.

The good news is that the present evil and vexing world is not permanent. It's been fixed.

Anonymous said...

What crap on your comments. Where do these weirdos come from? (Hey Dude?) Is this a teen-age blog?

Grow up and live long enough to understand what love for an animal is all about.

Obviously, you are just a little too immature to answer the question.

Yes, there is a Heaven for dogs. Mine just showed up there. And I do know that.

Grow up a bit and just maybe you'll get it figured out too.

Juneau....