Monday, August 1, 2011

Of dogs and salvation

“A dog is better than I because he loves and does not judge.”

-- Abba Xanthios


Jim said...

being a big lover of dogs and having two (a dachshund and a soft coated wheaten terrier) I agree totally with Abba Xanthios...My dogs just love unconditionally and I learn alot from them...

Robert Ainsworth (Athanasius) said...

St. Irenaeus of Lyon hinted at the resurrection of animals in his work Against Heresies, a text of the very earliest times (late 2nd Century).

St. Irenaeus of Lyon: Against Heresies: Book V, chapter 33, v. 4:

" ... nevertheless in the resurrection of the just [the words shall also apply] to those animals mentioned. For God is rich in all things. And it is right that when the creation is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God (for they had been originally subjected in obedience to Adam), that is, the productions of the earth."

Now for my opinion as an Orthodox Christian:

The Holy Orthodox Church has never dogmatized the ultimate fate of non-human creatures since they are guiltless before their Creator. She has rightly so been preoccupied with the salvation of human beings who will give account before God for every idle word they have spoken.

Since they have no guilt even though they commit acts that were never intended by God, they either pass out of existence OR they are resurrected and refashioned with a *new* body as befits their nature for existence in the New Creation.

ONLY GOD is immortal; every created being, man included, exists only by the energies and grace of the Most Holy Trinity (Acts: 17:28). None of us possess an intrinsically "immortal" soul.
And while the Church has rightly discerned the will of God that human beings created in His image will continue to exist after physical death, She has never stated dogmatically concerning the continuing existence of non-human creatures after their physical death.

If a sinner such as I can weep at the death of a faithful and loving dog, then surely from what we know of the character of Christ - He must love them even more. And since He never intended death for ANY part of His creation, and His Father notices even the death of every tiny bird, and both Scripture and Tradition clearly imply that there will be animals in the New Creation, why then would He not restore those guiltless creatures who never rebelled against Him, but suffer due to the self-willed rebellion of man?

There are many Orthodox priests and theologians who believe that most if not each and every one of the animals that have lived through the corruption and death they received due to the Fall of man will be restored in that great Day when Christ delivers up the Kingdom to His Father and God becomes "all in all".

Robert Ainsworth (Athanasius) said...

And this from another Orthodox priest:

"A great saint by the name of St. Isaac the Syrian said that heaven is the presence and love of God. Heaven is not a place high above the earth, like a planet or a star. God is everywhere, and heaven is the enjoyment of the sunshine of his love.

Do animals survive beyond death and go to heaven? That's a hard question. In the lives of saints, we are told that many had animals as good friends. In Orthodox icons, St. Gerasimos is shown with a lion. The saint has just pulled a thorn from the lion's paw, which he holds tenderly. Both the man and the lion gaze happily toward Christ, who is in heaven. St. Seraphim of Sarov, who lived in a forest for many years, is shown peacefully feeding a huge grizzly bear. I have no doubt that these saints would rejoice in seeing their animal friends in heaven.

What does the Bible say about this? Not much explicitly. The Bible's focus is on people, the salvation of their souls, their resurrection at the end of time, and the fullness of life in God's eternal light.

However, the first and last books of the Bible tell us something hopeful about all creatures of the earth. The book of Genesis says that "God made the wild animals...and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:25)! In the book of Psalms we read: "Every wild animal of the forest is mine.... I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine" (Psalm 50:10). Would not a loving God want all things that He has made to live with Him forever?

A hint of this is in the book of Revelation, which teaches that evil and the power of death, which are a corruption of all that is good, will be completely defeated and a new world more glorious than ours will arise. God's promise is: "See, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

Why should death finally win out and swallow up any of God's good creatures? Would not God then be defeated, and death prove stronger than God? Because God is the ruler of all creation, and loves everything in it with a love that never fails, I have hope that we will see our animal friends again somehow, just as St. Gerasimos will see his lion, and St. Seraphim his bear."

Father Theodore Stylianopoulos

(Fr. Stylianopoulos was on the theological staff of the Orthodox Study Bible.)

And He Who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5 NKJ)

(You'll notice He DIDN'T say that He would make "all new things!)