Will dogs be in Heaven? More importantly, will my dog be in Heaven? Will Scruffy be waiting for me at the pearly gates, ready to lick my face and beg for “people food”?
Let me preface this post by expounding a bit on my love for these wonderful creatures. Some of you had to beg your parents for a dog when you were young, you can remember a time without a dog. Not me. I was born into a dog family, molded by it- I didn’t know what it was like to live without a dog until I was already a man.
My family is a dog loving family. All of our dinner conversations end up revolving around dog stories. My Childhood dog, Scruffy, was a full blown member of the Settecase family. Growing up, my big brothers tried to convince me that Scruffy was my big brother since he was about 6 months older than me and sometimes they would even tell me that Scruff was the child and I was adopted or picked up from the poun- yikes, this is getting kind of dark, let me get back to my love for dogs.
I greet my parent’s dogs first when I come home. I pull up next to people walking their dogs to let them know how beautiful their pups are, sometimes I get out and pet them if their owners let me. Some of the most passionate debates I have with my fiancé are about what kind of dog we’ll have when we’re married and how many we can afford. I really love dogs.
With that said, no one can call me an “anti-dogist”. Keep that in mind as I try to answer the question, “will dogs be in Heaven?”.
So, what happens to dogs? Is there a dog heaven? Do dogs share Heaven with us? There are a lot of different directions we could go in an effort to answer the question, but there’s a certain direction I think we shouldn’t go, the direction of our happiness.
When my Dad had to put down my childhood dog, Scruffy, a fourteen year old Wirefox terrier, we were all pretty distraught. Yeah, he was just a dog, but we really considered him a member of the family. All you dog people out there will understand. The Sunday after we put Scruff down my dad asked a close friend if he thought Scruff will be in Heaven. My dad’s friend, full of good intentions, said “Jim, if you need Scruffy to be happy in Heaven, then he’ll be there”. I used to find this answer quite soothing but the more I’ve read my Bible and pondered this answer, which I’ve found to be pretty common in evangelical circles, the more preposterous I’ve found it to be.
Let’s pose this pithy answer in the form of a question and answer it in the affirmative,
“do you need your dog in order to be happy in Heaven?”
“Then your dog will be in Heaven.”
I don’t think we can answer the question this way, at least not from a Christian perspective. You’re telling me that when you die, and you get to see your Maker face to face- the King of Glory, the Divine Logos, the Savior of the World, the One who knit you together in your mother’s womb- and you’re going to say, “cool, but where’s my dog at?”. Nah. That’s the definition of idolatry, that’s worshipping the creation over the creator. That’s literally exchanging the glory of the immortal God for a dog, a dog!
No, we’ll be happy in Heaven because we’ll be with our God, the One for whom we’ve been made, the fountain of all joy, from whom every blessing comes. No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no heart of man has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him, we will be overwhelmed by God’s goodness in Heaven with or without our dogs.
So, in light of that implication, we’d have to answer the question, “do you need your dog in order to be happy in Heaven?” in the negative. No, we wont need our dog in order to be happy in heaven. To which the answer follows, “then, no, your dog will not be in heaven”.
Do you see why I dislike the pithy saying now? While it might be an easy way to placate a troubled and grieving dog owner, it’s implications are either not comforting or borderline blasphemous. I’m afraid we’ve turned a secondary thing like dogs into a first order thing. As C.S. Lewis says in his essay, First and Second Things, “the woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping”. If we seek first things we end up with first and second things but if we seek second things we’ll miss both. If we seek to be fulfilled soley through our dogs, we’ll end up hating them because they could never live up to that duty. But if our desires are properly ordered, with God as the first order desire we seek, then we can care for our dogs to His glory.
“Well, then how do we answer the question, Mr. Smarty-Park?” That’s the thing of it, I don’t think we can answer the question, at least not the specific question, “will my dog be in Heaven?”. As for dogs in general, yes, I think there will be dogs in the new Heavens and the new earth. Remember, Heaven isn’t the end goal, but rather a place of waiting till the consummation of all things, when Heaven meets the new earth, when we get new, glorified bodies. I think dogs are part of God’s good creation, in the beginning God created the dog “kind”, not specifically a wirefox terrier, but He certainitly made dogs to be good. I see no reason why God wouldn’t reestablish a good dog kind in the new heavens and the new earth, but He is God, if He choses not to then that’s good too.
“Well, what about Scruffy?” Yeah, I still don’t think we can give a solid answer on that. I’ve heard a lot of people use Revelation 21:5 “..Behold, I am making all things new.” in order to say that all the animals that lived and died on earth since God created it will be raised to new life. I think that’s a really big stretch. I’ve also heard a lot of staunch fundamentalists rail against any idea that animals have a soul or even a life force, calling all such ideas “pagan”. This is strange to me since animals are clearly alive with their own personalities, they obviously have some sort of “life force” that’s animating their bodies, whether that’s a soul or a spirit or if there’s even any difference, I’m not sure. Though yes, I affirm they are not made in the image of God as we are, of course!
So, will dogs be in heaven? I don’t know, but I do know that we should all stop saying, “If you need your dog to be happy in Heaven, then they’ll be there.”
Yeah. So here is a thought… when my cat died I actually struggled with this issue. Now – 2+ years later – I am ok. Its ok. This is stuff non-pet owners will never be able to understand but…
But anyway, have you read Thomas Chalmer’s The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. It basically hits upon what you wrote up above. I would say also that once Heaven, and the things of tomorrow roll around, we – as much as we love an miss our pets now – actually may no longer even desire that our pets be around.
And yes, I am sure God could very easily give you Skippy back if you asked for Skippy, but you surprisingly might not ask of him.