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#87 Pets in Heaven?:  A Eulogy

December 15, 2008

Just a simple 3 word question...

What about pets?

And then a long follow up...

I know there are A LOT of people out there that don't consider them "just a cat" or "just a dog" etc. They are our family members, best friends, and we love them as much...sometimes more.

I can't see heaven being much of a "heaven" without them.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated and valued.


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Dr. craig’s response


Your question comes at a poignant time in our lives, Jim, as we have just lost our beloved cat of 15 years, Muff. We returned from the Evangelical Philosophical Society conference in Providence to learn that Muff had been vomiting blood and was now too weak even to move. Our pet-sitters warned us that she was dying. Upon arriving home, we found Muff just lying in her soiled basket, scarcely able even to lift her head.

We took her immediately to the vet, realizing that the end was near. The decision to euthanize Muff was clearly the right course of action; but I have to tell you, it was the most painful decision I've ever had to make in my life. For although we could use euphemisms like "having Muff put to sleep," it was starkly apparent to me what I was telling the doctor to do: I was directing the doctor to kill Muff. As the vet began to inject the serum into Muff's hind leg, there was a dread sense of irreversibility about what I had done that swept through me. The thought flashed into my mind, "I never want to go through this again." And yet I also realized that suffering is the expense at which love comes. If you never want to suffer, then make sure that you never love.

We had originally acquired Muff and her sister Puff as kittens for our two children. But over time the kids grew up and went away to college and finally out on their own, and Muff and Puff became our own pets. You may have heard me even refer to Muff in my talks or debates; for example, to show the silliness of defining atheism as the mere absence of God-belief, since Muff was clearly not an atheist even though she (presumably) lacked God-belief. Over time Muff and Puff grew very attached to us. Every evening after supper when I'd sit down in my easy chair to watch TV or read e-mail on my laptop, Muff would come in and jump up beside me and purr while I stroked her or just lay her head on my leg and fall asleep. She just loved to be, as the Germans say, dabei, and was an affectionate companion.

We brought Muff's body home from the vet's, and I dug a deep hole in the garden and gently laid her body in it. She was curled up just as if she were asleep. I then buried her and planted a flower over the gravesite.

Losing Muff has been a poignant reminder to me to enjoy life as we have it now and not to take its blessings for granted. You never know when you may lose them, whether through the loss of a loved one, or through disease, or accident, or hardship. Jan often reminds me, "These are the 'good old days'!" Let's not forget to enjoy them while we can.

So will we see Muff again someday in heaven? I have absolutely no idea. But it's by no means impossible. God could re-create Muff or at the very minimum a Muff-duplicate. (This actually gets into very interesting philosophical questions about the resurrection of the dead and identity over time. In the case of human persons, personal identity in the risen life to come is guaranteed by the intermediate state of the soul after death.)

It's important to realize fully that the Judaeo-Christian hope for immortality is hope of an embodied existence, not some ethereal state of an immaterial soul. We shall have physical, resurrection bodies that inhabit a new heavens and a new earth, freed from death and corruption. Why wouldn't such a new creation be graced with plants and animals as well as human beings? Doubtless the biblical descriptions of the Kingdom of God according to which the lion will lie down with the lamb are metaphors for the reign of peace among mankind under God's rule. Similarly, descriptions of the tree of life bearing its fruit is doubtless a metaphor for eternal life. But such descriptions are certainly consistent with plant and animal life in the eschaton. So why not?

If God does so grace the new creation, I sure hope, for my part, that He includes rhinoceroses (or is it rhinoceri?) among the animals there!

- William Lane Craig