Life and its distinctivenesses & Do pets go to heaven?

 

Last time we looked at the state of the spiritual life within Scripture.  We got great encouragement from the importance of being set free from the slavery of sin.  Some religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism do not have the tradition of sin.  They have karma, cause and effect and the belief in an eternity of being born and reborn before being liberated from this body.  The body is seen as a prison, and it is important to break out of this prison to be one with Brahman again.  It is interesting also that Brahma the first person (god) of the Trimurti has only a couple of temples in India given to his name! As the creator god obviously, he was the one who caused this prison in the first place. 

In Christ there is hope, we can also remember Noah and think about our responsibilities to this creation as human beings.

 

Having said that the individual is still responsible for her own actions good and bad.  Although bad actions are not seen as sin in general it comes pretty close to it.  On reflection no one can escape their bad actions.  It does not matter what belief system one is in; bad actions will always haunt the persons. 

Bad actions always separate the individual from any metaphysical reality. For Christians the wages of sins are a spiritual death and total separation from God for all eternity. As we learned before the person who lives only for themselves is in a prison of sin.  Christ has made the way out for the spiritual prisoner.  The big I, needs to be replaced by Christ.  A surrender of ones will to Christ is a necessity through Faith.  Paul’s lists that Bavinck gave us proves the point that the Christian is free, and the unbeliever is trapped:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 NASB”

Living a life like this means an unhappy life and true loneliness separated from God and probably from family members too.

 

Bavinck gave us another list:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NASB”

This list in Christ gives us happiness not only in heaven but on earth too.  God reveals himself to us that we are sinners and separated from God and that we need to be ‘saved’.  We confess Jesus as our Lord, and we are brought into a living relationship with Christ and his people the Church:

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”; Romans 10:9 NASB

The above is only a start on the Christians walk.  Now that you are of the household of faith you are being made more and more into the image of God (in Christ).

Anyone can come into a relationship with the living God from any segment of human society. So then, this week we will be looking at how the Christian life is ‘a distinctive way of life’ that is separate from the worldly way of living.  By the way this is Bavincks second point on the list that we are looking.

When we look at what life is it can come in many forms and Bavinck the master theologian is willing to look at what teachings in the universities is out there.  With life there are also inanimate objects such as rocks and stones which do not have life even though they exist.  A rock is made from certain materials but it cannot be said that they are alive.  In some religions this is not the case (even a rock is seen to be alive).  However, a rock does not have:

“life is not merely a state but also a deed, activity, action, movement. Life is always an activity, an activity of an inner all—animating, all—controlling, organized, internal foundational principle that people call a life—force.34 And this activity must be thought of as continuous, as a state.”

(From Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; page 245; edited by John Bolt; Translator John Vriend; Baker Academic)

Bavinck continues to talk about the various forms of life

1.     Vegetative

2.     Animal

3.     Rational

Concerning human beings, it is interesting and shows Bavincks perception:

“Nonetheless, the lower life stages are incorporated in the higher ones; humans share the vegetative life (in stomach, intestines), also the sensory life of animals (in senses, body). In addition to that, humans possess reason. That rational life now comes to expression in various life-spheres: in marriage, family, society, state, art, and science. From it, therefore, flow multiple forms, manifestations, and areas of the single human rational life.”

This is in variance to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646—1716).  John Bolt made an important note, and I am going to quote it in full:

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646—1716) rejected “the Cartesian doctrines that all mental states are conscious and that non—human animals lack souls as well as sensation.” The key difference between animal souls and human (rational) souls, among other things, is the capacity of the latter for self—consciousness, abstract thinking, and acting freely. “Leibniz is a panpsychist: he believes that everything, including plants and inanimate objects, has a mind or something analogous to a mind. More specifically, he holds that in all things there are simple, immaterial, mind—like substances that perceive the world around them. Leibniz calls these mindlike substances ‘monads.’” Leibniz’s hierarchy of monads begins with “bare monads” such as plants, which “lack all sensation and consciousness. Leibniz compares their mental state “to our states when we are in a stupor or a dreamless sleep.” “Animals, on the other hand, can sense and be conscious, and thus possess souls. God and the souls of human beings and angels, finally, are examples of minds because they are self-conscious and rational. As a result, even though there are mind—like things everywhere for Leibniz, minds in the stricter sense are not ubiquitous” (http://www.iep.utm.edu/lei—mind/).

Obviously panpsychists believe there is some type of mind in everything.   Bavinck has given us a correction on this doctrine, and he finishes of by saying:

“The rational life differs from the vegetative and sensory not only in feeling, consciousness, and reflex, but in its foundational principle—namely, the life force; it is life of a different kind.”

My view on this is that we humans were created in the image of God.  We have rationality and it is only into humans that he breathed the breath of life.  All other life forms do not have our reason.  We were created to have a relationship with God for all eternity. 

A diversion in the discussion; Are there pets in heaven?

I completely agree with Bavinck, and I could never take on board panpsychism.  However, are there animals in heaven?

The reason I bring this up is because we have a pet rabbit, and his name is Leo.  He is very clever, and he knows us individually.  He shows emotional intelligence of happiness and annoyance.  When it is time for him to have a bath, he will jump into his cage and refuse to come out.  However, every evening I cut some apple and I talk to him, he goes crazy, and he runs around and tries to get my attention.  If this isn’t intelligence, I don’t know what is.  Over the centuries since the stone age humans have been found buried with their pets.  At Gök Tepe in Turkey which is over 7000 years old there are carvings of animals.  Not only did we eat animals, but we also made friends with them. 

In the doctrine of Creation, it would be appropriate to look at this area especially with the environments we have been destroying.   We find animals all over the Bible.

1.     Animals taking Elijah to Heaven

2.     A talking donkey

3.     Adam naming the animals

4.     The snake ‘spoke’ in the garden of Eden

This list is just from the top of my head.  Obviously, our life is on another scale, and this means we are responsible for taking care of this world we live in.  If God is a God of love, then he knows our feelings towards our pets.  For me, I think there is room for pets in heaven.  There is a tree in heaven (tree of life) a vegetative life form then why not pets?

The question of pets in heaven is not a question the New Testament is focusing on.  As Bavinck below will say God is diametrically opposed to sin.  Pets are obviously not in this remit, and I think from this sense they are protected.  Not so for human beings who being created in the image of God ‘wanted to usurp God’.   This is the main cause for the sufferings of creation.  Once humanity is aligned with God’s kingdom then animals will be treated more fairly.

Bavinck continues and explains what sort of life the Bible is diametrically opposed to:

The spiritual life completely excludes and is diametrically opposed only to the life of sin that follows the will of the flesh and its desire (Eph. 2:3; 1 Pet. 4:3).  In a word, it opposes the “natural man” (1 Cor. 2:14), the distinctively human life not shared by God, Christ, or the angels, because the latter is a continuous activity flowing from an organizing, controlling, energizing, principle of life characterized by selfishness and lust, in coarser or finer form.

 

Let’s now look at some of the verses Bavinck quotes here:

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:3

For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 1 Peter 4:3

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14

It is not to animals that God is bringing judgement but onto humans.  We have rationality and because of this we are culpable for our evil deeds.  The spiritual life is diametrically opposed to the sinful life:

17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:17

The ‘flesh’ is the natural created man of this world.  This natural man wants to indulge in things that drive a person away from God.  The big ‘I’ thinks it is in control, and he/ she wants to usurp the position of God.  This leads to a spiritual death.

Reflection

We are at one level people of the flesh (natural created people) and in that sense as believers we live in this life and puts the interests of the world in front of us and we are also spiritual beings who are being restored to what we should have been prior to Adam’s rebellion and sin of pride as the image of God.  Jesus is the true image of God and through him we are sanctified.

Sin is a universal problem to the whole of humankind. Various religions deal with bad action using other logic, but its base is something that pulls us away from the metaphysical reality of the Divine. 

In the Eastern religions humans can reach ethical perfection in this world but it still flows from the ‘I’ (I did it).  Letting go of desires along the way does indeed work in making a person happier but there is no permanent escape to a metaphysical reality beyond death.   In Christianity it is not ‘what I can do’.  It is the opposite ‘I cannot do anything’.  This leads to humility and by the Holy Spirit the gift of faith and grace is given to the believer.  This is my opinion.  As a Christian I am called to love everyone no matter what their lifestyle or religious beliefs. 

Concerning the nature of Faith, I have reached the end of Hebrews 10 and the beginning of Hebrews 11 which is the faith chapter.  I invite you to continue reading there:  https://weaver1hasonline.international/

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