God so loved his animals, he built them an ark: Beliefs about pets in heaven.

I’m currently writing a series of blog posts tackling the strange and sometimes ridiculous world of Christian belief. I’m not addressing any of our core beliefs; instead, this series is about things that creep into the sidelines of consciousness. Please remember I don’t claim to be a theologian, and so while you’re reading my thoughts, think of them as the wisdom of a guy, 27 years into his journey of faith in Jesus.

Let’s get into it

Recently I got into a bit of hot water with a publisher regarding whether the sass of a child is sin. I suggested that God would enjoy a cheeky child in heaven… They suggested I may be wrong. 

As you will have guessed from the title, today, we’re not talking about sassy children. Still, that conversation is relevant because we’re talking about God’s capacity for enjoyment and the idea of what heaven really is.

To get us started, I will say that the idea animals may not have souls is something I could cope with. However, I don’t believe having a soul is necessarily the issue here. In fact, although there are several bible references used to prove that animals can’t be in heaven, those beliefs might not really be relevant here. The issue may end up being far more about whether you’re able to cope with God enjoying animals, and indeed whether you’re able to cope with the Christian idea of heaven being able to include fun, and dare I say it… the sass of a child.

What’s the issue?

The idea behind animals not being in heaven is that the fall in Genesis was the fault of God’s people, Adam & Eve. It was because of them that the whole of creation got broken. What we’re talking about here is the central Christian belief that God made humans above animals. When we say that God created humans in his image (Gen 1:26), that’s the piece of information, which begins to set us apart. That’s where the soul is relevant. When we sinned, the world got broken in such a way that it needed a perfect saviour, but the link, the wound if you like, was in the soul of man. That was where the break in the relationship was.

Some theologians will say that animals cannot be in heaven because this connection was forged between the creator and his people. When Jesus died and rose again, he beat death, healed the wound, and restored the scar tissue. Jesus’ sacrifice fixed everything in such a perfect way that there was an opportunity for humanity to be reunited with God again. 

And this is the problem for me. The passage: For God so loved that world that he gave his only son, in John 3:16 was written to explain to humans about how we’re loved and restored by God, who gave of himself. 

The bible, to be frank, simply isn’t written to animals. And why would it be?! God’s word is the living breath of his love for those created in his image to read. This is truly special, a wonderful gift, and we have it because we’re designed to love the mystery. That isn’t the same for the rest of God’s creation.

In Genesis 1:25 it says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

The question which arises from that for me would be this: When did God change his mind about that? 

God made animals, and they were good. Humans sinned, and we kept on disobeying God until the great flood when God so loved the animals that he got the only faithful man to make a ginormous ark for them to live in. 

Truthfully, God’s heart for animals is so evident in scripture that I wouldn’t be surprised if we are made to wait in heaven from time to time while he walks his dog and feeds the heavenly chickens. 

Please understand me; I’m not making light of heaven, but I think we’re missing something of the creative, joyful heart of God if we think that animals are not part of the plan. 

And so if you’re an animal lover, why not believe you’ll see when in the kingdom of heaven? Why not live with that hope? In fact, why not imagine that God shares your enthusiasm about them too.

What a wonderful gift they are!

If you’re enjoying this series, do consider buying my book ‘Stuck in the Mud: Stories of hope for when you’re stuck.’ It’s available from all Christian bookshops, Amazon, Waterstones and bookshop.org.

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