Part Twenty-Four: Scholars Who Believe in Animal Resurrection
Before we begin looking at the evidence that at least sentient earthly animal will be resurrected, I want to point out that many well-known theologians agree with this conclusion. Christian thinkers over the centuries, especially Reformation and post-Reformation theologians, have acknowledged the likelihood of animal resurrection. When great thinkers, who spend much of their lives studying and teaching about theological issues, agree that animals will probably be resurrected, it’s compelling evidence they will. The fact is belief in the probability of animal resurrection in the eschaton is not without endorsement from well-respected theologians and scholars.
Blog articles limit the amount and length of the quotes I can include, but I want to share a few excerpts from some of the more well-known scholars who accept the likelihood of animal resurrection. (Anyone interest in my sources for the following quotes, you can contact me through my website: www.danstory.net.)
When the great Reformation theologian Martin Luther was asked if he believed dogs, in particular his dog Tólpel, would be in heaven, he answered: “Certainly, for there the earth will not be without form and void. Peter said that the last day would be the restitution of all things. God will create a new heaven and a new earth and new Tólpes with hide of gold and silver. God will be all in all; and snakes, now poisonous because of original sin, will then be so harmless that we shall be able to play with them.” Elsewhere, commenting on Psalm 36:6 (“O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.”), Luther remarked that the passage affirms, “that God is rightly called the ‘Saviour of all beasts.’”
Another Reformation scholar who seemed to have acknowledged the probability of animal resurrection is John Calvin. He observed “that nonhuman animals long to participate in . . . redemption,” and made a provocative statement in “Speculation About Animals” that implies he believed in animal resurrection: “Because the creatures . . . have a hope of being freed hereafter from corruption, it follows that they groan like a woman in labour until they have been delivered . . . . In short, the creatures are not content with their present condition, and yet they do not pine away irremediably. They are, however, in labour, because they are waiting to be renewed to a better state” (emphasis added). Commenting on Romans 1:20, Calvin wrote: “No part of the universe is untouched by the longing with which everything on this world aspires to the hope of resurrection.”
Calvin, like Luther, did not develop (that I know of) an explicit doctrinal statement on whether or not animals will resurrect. But, as the above comments illustrate, both their writings imply they likely believed in animal resurrection.
Probably no well-known theologian has expressed a greater and more passionate belief that animals will resurrect than the eighteenth century Anglican clergyman, evangelist, and cofounder of Methodism, John Wesley. He argued that Romans 8:19-22 implies that the future New Earth would include the exact same animals that presently dwell on this earth. He believed this was the only way earthly animals could be delivered from the curse. Wesley “hoped for a ‘general deliverance’ in which, after death, animals will be compensated for the suffering they underwent and liberated from the rages of which they partook” on this earth due to human fallenness.
Answering the question, “are there animals in heaven?,” well known theologian Peter Kreeft makes no bones about his belief in the resurrection of animals:
The simplest answer is: Why not? How irrational is the prejudice that would allow plants (green fields and flowers) but not animals into Heaven . . .
Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? “Is my dead cat in heaven?” Again, why not? God can rise up the very grass; why not cats? . . . We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over the animals; we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth; therefore it seems likely that the right relationship with animals will be part of Heaven: proper “petship.” And what better place to begin than with already petted pets? (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven . . . But Never Dreamed of Asking, 45-46).
The “Bible Answer Man” likewise supports the probability of animal resurrection:
Scripture does not conclusively tell us whether our pets will make it to heaven. However, the Bible does provide us with some significant clues regarding whether animals will inhabit the new heaven and the new earth. . . .
Furthermore, the Scriptures from first to last suggests that animals have souls. . . .It wasn’t until the advent of the seventeenth-century Enlightenment and the thought of Descartes and Hobbes that the existence of animal souls was even questioned in Western civilization. . . .
Finally, while we cannot say for certain that the pets we enjoy today will be “resurrected” in eternity, I, like Joni [Eareckson Tada] are not willing to preclude the possibility. Some of the keenest thinkers from C. S. Lewis to Peter Kreeft are not only convinced that animals in general but that pets in particular will be restored in the resurrection.. . .
In the final analysis, one thing is certain: Scripture provides us with a sufficient precedent for suggesting that animals will continue to exist after the return of our Lord. (Resurrection, 120-122).
This popular writer, conference speaker, and the author of the highly acclaimed book, Heaven, clearly expects animals to be resurrected:
We know animals will be on the New Earth, which is a redeemed and renewed old Earth, in which animals had a prominent role. People will be resurrected to inhabit this world. As we saw, Romans 8:21-23 assumes animals as part of a suffering creation eagerly awaiting deliverance through humanity’s resurrection. This seems to require that some animals who lived, suffered, and died on the old Earth must be made whole on the New Earth. Wouldn’t some of those likely be our pets? (Heaven, 386).
I have two more contemporary scholars to quote, but ran out of space in this article. Next week we’ll see what two other world-class scholars have to say on the subject: C. S. Lewis and British theologian Richard Bauckham.
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