And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
Anatole France — ‘Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’
I was inspired today to write about animals, as far as I can, from a biblical perspective. A fellow Christian recently told me she believes animals “just end” when they die, that they have no soul as humans do. Is this a biblical response?
The following article has been helpful in understanding God’s perspective on animals (as has reading the chapter “Animal Pain” in CS Lewis’s book “The Problem of Pain”):
God prohibited the killing of man (“You shall not murder,” Exodus 20:13) but he placed no such restriction on the killing of animals. Man is made in God’s image, so man must not kill one of his own kind. Animals, it would seem, are different from man. If they do have a “soul” that survives death, it is different from man’s. It does not need redemption. Christ died to save the souls of human beings, not animals.
Even so, the prophet Isaiah says God will include animals in the new heavens and new earth:
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock:
and dust shall be the serpent’s meat.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,
saith the Lord.
In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John’s vision of heaven also included animals, showing Christ and the armies of heaven riding “upon white horses.” (Revelation 19:14, KJV)
Most of us can’t picture a paradise of unspeakable beauty without flowers, trees, and animals. Would it be heaven for an avid birdwatcher if there are no birds? Would a fisherman want to spend eternity with no fish? And would it be heaven for a cowboy without horses?
While theologians may be stubborn in classifying animals’ “souls” as inferior to those of humans, those learned scholars must admit that descriptions of heaven in the Bible are sketchy at best. The Bible does not give a definitive answer on the question of whether we will see our pets in heaven, but it does say, “… with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, KJV)
My little cat Buster is an important part of my life and I feel he has grown tamer, more human-like, with the passing years. Others have described Buster as he is today as “mellow”, “polite” and “innocent” whereas in times past he used to roam the neighbourhood looking for fights. He nows taps my husband and I gently with his paw whenever he wants our attention: whether it be for food, pats or play. He asks us for food in a polite tone, accepting with a sigh of good grace the reply “No” when we deem he’s had enough. And he screams with sheer delight when my husband wrestles him with the special padded glove he wears to protect his hand and arm from Buster’s sharp little claws.
I believe Buster is a gift from God. You probably feel the same way about your pet. And if you do not it may be, like the lady I go to church with who says animals are soulless, that your conscience has not yet been awakened in this area of life. Perhaps allergies or other issues prevent you drawing closer to those animals you have as pets, so there is still an emotional and spiritual wall between you.
CS Lewis wrote eloquently on the issue of animal “immortality” in the world. Some interesting passages:
Man is to be understood only in his relation to God. The beasts are to be understood only in their relation to man and, through man, to God…I am now going to suggest – though with great readiness to be set right by real theologians – that there may be a sense, corresponding, though not identical, with these, in which those beasts that attain a real self are IN their masters. That is to say, you must not think of a beast by itself, and call that a personality and then inquire whether God will raise and bless THAT. You must take the whole context IN which the beast acquires its selfhood…That whole context may be regarded as a ‘body’ in the Pauline…sense; and how much of that ‘body’ may be raised along with the goodman and the goodwife, who can predict?…And in this way it seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.
Comforting Bible passages revealing God’s love for animals:
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:
but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
The Ten Commandments reveal God’s care for animals. The Fourth Commandment states that even the cows are to rest on the Sabbath day:
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
We can learn spiritual lessons from animals:
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee;
and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
8 or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee:
and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
9 Who knoweth not in all these
that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?
10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing,
and the breath of all mankind.
Thank you to http://www.in-memory-of-pets.com/index.php for the verses quoted above.