Jef Caine – Graphic Designer
When I was in Bible college, I got into an uncomfortable debate with a peer about whether or not we believers will be reunited with our pets in heaven.
I was confident and resolute in my position that animals did not receive the breath of life from their creator and therefore lack the eternal soul necessary for continued existence in the hereafter. I was feeling pretty good about dashing my opponent’s hopes with my doctrinal creeds when she took a more emotional approach to the argument. “Do you have pets Jef?” she asked sternly “have you ever had a connection with an animal?” she inquired before storming off. It wasn’t my finest moment.
Years later I now own a dog, I am much less certain on the eternal fate of animals, and I’m 100% convinced it’s never a good idea to use theology to be a jerk to someone. I’d all but forgotten this exchange until recently coming across a puzzling passage in the book of Ecclesiastes.
Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” Ecclesiastes 3:19-21
“Who knows”? What do you mean, “Who knows”? It bothered me to find this passage in the Bible. The author is questioning whether or not we will rise again after we die? Isn’t that a foundational principle of the Christian faith?
After talking to some peers, I’ve come to understand that the Old Testament perspective offers little certainty on the issue of an afterlife. Before Jesus, the concept of Eternal Life was more ambiguous. This line of thinking has caused me to reflect on my own perspective on life and its purpose. I recall a co-worker once challenging me by stating that if the only reason I would help someone else out is to receive a reward in Heaven, I’m not really a good person at all. His words took me back, they were as harsh as they were true.
How would I live my life differently if heaven was not a guarantee? Would I still aspire to live a selfless life of service or would I choose a more hedonistic rout? The book of Ecclesiastes has much to say about worldly pleasure and its limits as well.
As I continue to reconsider my views on Heaven I’ve come to conclude that the Bible is less clear on the subject than I used to think, even in the New Testament. I’m working to hold my theology looser and with more openness to other’s perspectives. Whatever happens in the afterlife, it certainly can’t hurt to be more open-minded about it now. If nothing else, it will at least make me a nicer person to animal lovers everywhere.