Do Our Pets Have Eternal Life?

Meet Ricky.  Ricky is my sweet, gentle Havanese.  He turns 13 this week.  That is pretty old in dog years.  When Ricky isn’t in the house, the house seems strangely empty.  We are so accustomed to his being there.  While Ricky is still in good health, it is becoming more a part of our thoughts that he won’t be there forever.  He is getting old, and like the rest of us, his time will eventually come to an end on this Earth.

Does Ricky just disappear at that point?  If you are a materialist, your answer is “of course”.  Dogs like people are just organisms that are here for a short while and then gone.  If you believe in reincarnation you would disagree.  In fact, you and your dog might eventually switch places, so be nice to your dog.

Does the Bible say anything about animals?  I have heard many people, including pastors, say that animals do not have souls because they are not created in the image of God.  I know the Bible pretty well.  I don’t know from where that idea comes.

Without a doubt, the focus of the Bible is on the eternal existence of humans.  We are created in the image of God.  We do have an eternal existence, either with God or forsaken by Him.  It all depends on our connection to Jesus.  But read these words from Colossians 1:19f and tell me what they say about Jesus’ work in relation to the rest of creation:

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him(Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross…This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to ever creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

I read that the death of Jesus was not just for the benefit of human beings but rather it reconciles all things.  You could translate this “all (people)” if it were not for the “things on earth and things in heaven” part.

While the death of Jesus reconciles God with the corruption of his creation, that doesn’t quite add up to all being a part of Heaven or the New Earth.  At least, that is certain for people.  Living things, other than people, are clearly a part of the New Earth (see Isaiah 65).  The unanswered question is whether or not our particular pets are a part of that new creation.  While animals are usually not as intelligent as people, we cannot say anything about the existence or non-existence of their spirit from the Bible (see my previous blog on Spirit, Soul and Consciousness).  That said, it is a distinct possibility that our pets may be a part of our eternity, especially the New Earth.

I hope so anyway.

Spirit, Soul and Consciousness

One critical question related to a discussion of life, death, and life after death is, “What exactly are we?”  For example, are we just a physical body whose chemical interactions create the illusion of thought, self-awareness and experience of an external world?  Or are we just a mind (whatever that is) that experiences an external world that is an illusion (Think the movie, “The Matrix” here).  Or does the external world really exist, our brains and their chemistry really exist and our conscious self is really something that is not formally part of this universe, but interacts with this universe via the brain.  The last theory is a dualism favored by scientists who are not wholesale devotees of materialism (the idea that the only real things are measurable things).

The Bible is dualistic.  Body and soul are mentioned many places.  While body and soul were not to be separated, they can be.  I am both my body and my soul.  Hence, the promise of the resurrection of the body and not just an eternal heavenly separation of the soul from this world.

In one passage, Hebrews 4:12, a third category is introduced.  It states, “(the Word of God is) Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even is dividing soul and spirit…”  The words soul and spirit are clearly not synonyms here.  To what do they refer?   “Soul” in Greek is psyche.  “Spirit” is pneuma.  We use these roots in many words, but do we understand what the writer meant, and do these words relate to what we have learned about the brain?

Materialists want us to believe that our whole experience of consciousness is merely brain chemistry.  They point to the fact that electrical stimulation of certain parts of the brain can give us sensory and emotional experiences.  They also refer to imaging from PET scans that show brain activity in certain parts of the brain for any conscious experience.  True materialist devotees then extend this connection to a form of fatalism, suggesting that we have no freewill of any form.  Our bodies simply do what our brain chemistry makes us do, and brain chemistry is strictly cause and effect according to the laws of physics.  It’s the perfect excuse.  “Was I speeding, officer?  I couldn’t help it my brain made me speed.”

Besides being morally absurd and not corresponding at all with our own experience of self, this theory doesn’t explain well the experience of people put in a medically induced coma and cooled down for brain surgery.  They have no PET activity nor access to either their senses or a scientist’s probe, still one Arizona woman experienced being out of her body and accurately described all the activity in the surgical suite.

I personally believe that our brains are the interface between our consciousness and body and not the source of our consciousness.  Our pneuma is something non-physical.  It can experience Heaven or Sheol.  It can even experience the Earth without our bodies in certain conditions.  Our spirit also interfaces with our brains to create chemical and electrical activity (our psyche) driving our body to interact with the world.

Physical death disconnects our pneuma and psyche.  Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is powerful enough to kill.  More importantly, it is powerful enough to make alive. We are more than interesting chemistry.  We are a created being with self-awareness for a reason.  We are meant to know ourselves and to know our Creator.  Despite the sin that results in a division of soul and spirit, we have a Savior that values body, soul and spirit and redeems them all.