Animals in Heaven

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I've often been asked, "Will my dog be with me in Heaven?"

Peter Kreeft, one of the great theologians of our day, says "Yes." [reference needed!]

Animals have souls

The perennial philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, which is favored by the Church as the best tool for understanding her doctrines, is derived from Aristotle, who taught that the soul is the form of the body.

From this perspective, all living things (plants and animals) have souls. Humans are a special kind of animal because God personally gives each one of us our identity, intelligence, and free will at the moment of conception. Those spiritual qualities of the human soul, in turn, make us immortal persons.

Animals are not persons in that sense. They have an identity (this dog is not that dog), but they do not enjoy the power of personal immortality in the same way that we do. They are not destined by God for the Beatific Vision in the same way that we are.

This does not mean that there is not some other mode of eternal life granted to animals.

Animals have no sin

Animals are in no need of a Savior because they do not share in Original Sin and are incapable of personal sin. They cannot know the good yet choose what is evil, as we can. Animals are always morally innocent. They act according to their nature and their conditioning, without having any freedom of choice on par with ours.

Animals, therefore, do not need forgiveness of sin. Since we can understand the difference between a "good" animal and a "bad" animal, we may need to take steps to change an animal's behavior or, unfortunately, to kill an animal that cannot be rehabilitated, but that kind of "goodness" or "badness" is not a moral issue but a practical matter measured by the standards that we set for the animals.

Animals are created by God

Genesis tells us that one God created all things, and among them, all living beings Gen 1:20-31). When He was finished with the work of Creation, "God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good" (1:31).

In my view, God loves animals far more than we do. They are His masterpieces of life, from the smallest to the greatest of organisms. Scripture hints that they are a reflection of God's glory and that they sing God's praises in their own way. In some way, all creation suffers from the effects of Original Sin; in some way, all creation will participate in the glory of the Resurrection.

Rom 19-21:
For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

I'm not well equipped to speculate about what the participation of animal life will be like in eternity; I don't think God has told us much about this aspect of His plans. One wild guess is that the whole history of the universe will be an open book for us that we may read at our pleasure. Another is that the animals that we have loved will live forever in and through us; everything that we loved about them will become immortal with us.

"We see now as in a glass, darkly" (1 Cor 13:12). Whatever the exact nature of God's plan for the destiny of animals, we may be sure that it will be a joy forever.


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