Lewis on Animal Eternity

I recently read C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, which I had avoided for some time under the impression that it was simply a stock presentation of a free will apologetic. I’m not a proper Calvinist, as most of you know, but I’m still far too Reformed to be interested in such an argument. But my recent Lewis binge taught me to expect something different, and behold, what I found was delightful.

A great deal of interesting reason is present in The Problem of Pain, but one of the more intriguing sections is in Lewis’ final chapter, on animal pain. He mentions how most arguments which justify human pain do not work on animals, and in the process of exploring alternatives suggests that perhaps, maybe, if we may speculate, they’re made this such a recompense as animal immortality. This is not necessarily to say that animals are inherently immortal. They may well need a resurrection to live forever. (Of course, many Christians think the same of humans.)

In particular, Lewis is only really concerned about animals which may be said to possess some sort of consciousness. Animals without consciousness, he argues, certainly “have pain” but do not truly experience it, and thus it is morally irrelevant. But in the higher animals, they seem to have a true experience of suffering, one which, because of their amoral natures, cannot be redeemed or justified by spiritual formation or anything similar. By most accounts, they do not even receive recompense in another life.

These standard accounts are the target of Lewis’ alternative speculation. Animal pain must have some divine justification, and while God has not seen fit to give us any more than a glimpse into His plans for the animal kingdom, it may be worth considering some possible answer. Thus Lewis argues animal immortality as an option.

His proposal makes use of the word “in,” which he regards as so Biblically enigmatic. Men are lost in Adam and saved in Christ, a reality into which Lewis suspects is deeper and richer than we could imagine. So he takes the “in” concept and hypothetically extends it to the higher animals. We are raised by being in Christ; might animals be raised in us?

Lewis here seems to invoke something of a relational ontology. He points out that the higher animals always seem to be highest, in abilities and personalities, in relation to humans. A wild dog may simply act like a clever beast, but a well-trained dog can become almost like a child. Dolphins are impressive in the sea, but reach more glory in more complexity in the company of trainers. (Anyone who denies this latter point either has never been to a dolphin show or is ideologically blinded.)

Thus Lewis suggests that these animals, while naturally conscious in some way, may attain a more full level of individuality and personality in their human relations which elevates their status. They become “in us” something which can indeed be raised on the last day, and by participation in the human household find a place in the divine restoration which pertains first to men.

Whether this account is correct or not is, of course, highly debatable. It’s also difficult to argue simply because of the paucity of biblical/theological evidence one way or the other. But regardless it is very intriguing, and I think it’s worth thinking over for, if nothing else, the very realistic way it pushes us to consider the relationship between animals and humans. If men are to animals in some respect as God is to men, is animal resurrection so far-fetched? Or are animal personality and consciousness really all that difficult to hold?

Lewis on Animal Eternity

Evangelical Calvinism: I Suggest Four New Solas

One of the primary goals of Evangelical Calvinism is to further reform the Reformed tradition. As I mentioned the other day, the Reformation will never be truly over, and EC focuses on what work still needs to be done. And if we’re going to try to keep reforming the Reformation, we might find it useful to extend the iconic Five Solas, the defining marks of Protestant theology. Here, then, is my proposal for four additional, Evangelical Calvinist solas.

Sola Incarnatio: The Incarnation Alone

The Incarnation alone is the meeting point between God and man, the only possible connection between the Creator and His human creatures. Jesus of Nazareth isn’t just in fact the only way to God, but He is in principle the only way to God. No other way could exist for God and man to have a relationship. There can only be communion between God and man because of the hypostatic union between God and man in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. This all is meant to apply even to sinless man. Had Adam never sinned, his destiny would still have been found only in Jesus taking on flesh. Had man never chosen death, his life would still only be fulfilled by coming of Life Himself in human nature. Why? Because God is above, we are below, God is Creator, we are creature, God is infinite, we are finite, God is transcendent, and we are dust. There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and man, a gap that could only be bridged by God’s omnipotent power in becoming one of us.

Sola Apocalypsi: By Revelation Alone

God can be known by revelation alone, His personal self-revelation. The idea of general revelation is a mixed bag: surely the whole creation testifies to its Creator, but among fallen, fleshly men this means little or nothing. There are no ears to hear. If we are to find God at all, if we are to reliably know anything true and certain about Him, we need to be directly confronted by His personal Word. This happens in Christ, the Old Testament preparations which were bound up with His Coming, and the Apostolic witness to Him in the New Testament, by the Spirit.

Sola apocalypsi means that we can’t trust things like natural theology, general revelation, or philosophical arguments to know anything about God except in retrospect. We can see light in these ways through Christ, but apart from Christ it is all darkness. 

Solius Benevolentia: Of Goodwill Alone

All things, particularly all men, have been created by God of goodwill alone. There is no malice, no darkness, and no deviousness in God’s plans for His creation. This is meant specifically in contrast to the doctrine that many people have been created not out of God’s kindness per se, but instead were created specifically for God’s wrath or (in a more positive framing) to glorify God by highlighting His justice in punishing their sins. God’s eternal design and desire for no man is doom. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

This may seem like a polemic especially against classical Calvinism, but it is not unique to Calvinism. It also applies to the theology of election (actually, for him it was more about providence) in Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. As Evangelical Calvinists, we deny that God’s will for any man terminates in their eternal destruction, regardless of who says otherwise.

Sola Vita: Life Alone

Closely related to the last suggested sola, we affirm that life alone is the end to which God has predestined all people. There is only one singular destiny God has created for His creation, and that is eternal life by the glory of God. No one is predetermined apart from their actual rejection of God to anything else. As Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is living man.” Thus this follows from the traditional soli Deo gloria. God’s glory is the end of all things, and He has sovereignly chosen to manifest His glory precisely in giving His eternal, imperishable life to human creatures.

This destiny, of course, has been proved in Jesus Christ, the archetypal human and new Adam. In raising Jesus from the dead, God has displayed before the world His singular plan for the world. The resurrection and restoration of all things, but particularly humanity, is His design. Anyone who is damned and lost (and there will be many such people) are not so because of God’s will but their own.

Evangelical Calvinism: I Suggest Four New Solas

Secure Because Jesus (Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 2)

My last post on whether or not you could lose your salvation was a bit of a mess. Well, that was mainly because I didn’t know exactly where I was going with it. Since then, I’ve gone through a bit of a paradigm shift. So now I want to approach it differently.

My contention: it is completely impossible to lose (or give up, as some will say) your salvation.

Why do I say this? See, it all goes back to a particular question. The question of whether salvation can be lost or abandoned goes back to the more fundamental question of this: what is salvation based on?

What Salvation Isn’t Based On

Naturally, there are a few different ways that people tend to answer this question. Some people will answer, “My salvation is based on the good deeds I do. If I am a good person, God decides I’m saved.” This cannot stand up to any Biblical scrutiny. We are told repeatedly in Scripture that salvation belongs to God, and comes through the blood of Jesus. It is by grace, through faith, not of works, so that no one can boast.

The next answer you’ll hear is, “My salvation is based on my faith in Jesus.” Yet even this isn’t right. Sure, salvation comes through faith, but that’s not what our salvation is based on. This will probably sound strange to many of you, so hold on a minute while I cross off the other answer people give to this question.

Salvation comes through faith, but that’s not what our salvation is based on.

A final common answer is actually a combination of the previous two. “My salvation is based on my works and my faith. If I believe in Jesus and live a Christ-like life, I am saved.” This doesn’t eliminate the problems of the previous answers, though. It actually makes them worse! The reason for this is that both previous answers contain along with this one a deadly, unbiblical word. What is this word? “My.”

Perhaps my point would be more clear if I changed the question. Instead of “what is salvation based on,” since that usually puts our minds into works vs. faith mode, let’s ask “who is salvation based on?” This changes things. There is only one way to answer this question.

Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

Revelation 7:10

Who (And What) Salvation Is Based On

Jesus is the basis of our salvation. This is the clear testimony of Scripture. I could chain together a long list of references for this, but I doubt that I need to because it should be blatantly obvious. Our salvation is based on Jesus. Is it also based on ourselves? Is salvation a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of us? Of course not! Salvation is, as we Protestants like to say, solus Christus, “in Christ alone!” It is all of Christ

At this point I should probably back up for a moment. What does this have to do with our faith? “We are saved by faith, right?” you ask. Well, kind of. We are saved by grace through faith. This grace is the obedient life of Jesus, and it is what saves us, not our faith itself.

Our faith and works flow straight from Jesus’ own faith and works.

See, consider what most of us Protestants would already say about works. We would affirm that our good works cannot save us, but that they happen because we are saved and are the result of the Holy Spirit. And we would also agree that Jesus’ good works are involved in saving us. His righteous life counts on our behalf. The truth is, though, that faith works the same way. We are justified, according to Galatians 2:16, by “the faith of Christ.” (Nerd Note: most modern translations say “faith in Christ.” But the KJV before them and now a growing number of contemporary scholars agree with the more literal translation “faith of Christ” or “faithfulness of Christ.”) Jesus’ perfect faith in God, walking step by step trusting the Father, is part of how His life saves us. Our faith, like our works, are caused by the Holy Spirit, with Jesus’ own faith being what really counts.

So what am I saying? Are our faith and works nothing, just inventions of the Spirit, that have nothing to do with salvation? Not exactly. The most important thing the Holy Spirit does is make us “in Christ.” We become united to Him as members of His body through the Holy Spirit. So our faith and works flow straight from Jesus’ own faith and works. His salvation life comes to us through the Spirit, so that we can believe and do good deeds in His power. We become part of the life He lived (and lives!), and that life is the basis for our salvation.

To try to explain this topic in much detail and counter any objections would take longer than I have time for here. But at the core I think it is a simple and Biblical truth: Jesus saves. Our salvation all comes from Jesus, from beginning to end. It is based 100% on Him, with our faith and works coming from Him, too. So even if our faith and works aren’t good enough, even if we don’t believe enough or do enough, they are based on Jesus’ perfect faith and works which save us anyway.

So What About Losing Salvation?

If you’ve followed along so far, you should see where I am going with this. If salvation is not based on our own faith or works, then there is simply no space for us to lose it or give it up. If Jesus is the basis for our salvation, and He believed perfectly, worked perfectly, and remained faithful even to death, then our salvation is eternally secure because of His eternally perfect life! We are secure because Jesus.

So, if this is the case as I’ve said, then what do we make of people who believe for a time and then abandon the faith? Quite simply, they have no connection to Christ. They never did. Jesus’ life cannot be extinguished. No matter how hard we try, if we are truly connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, that can’t stop. It’s not even in our control. Your will can’t overcome a changed nature united deeply to God Himself through Jesus. So anyone who stops believing never was united to Jesus. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t believe at all. Certainly that had some kind of faith, otherwise Jesus and James could not call it “faith.” But this faith is not of the Spirit, and does not flow from Jesus’ own faith. It is a faith of the flesh, corruptible and altogether insufficient. It cannot save, and it cannot reach up to bring God down. This faith, paradoxically, resists the Holy Spirit and seeks to establish its own salvation without love and union with Jesus.

Anyone who stops believing never was united to Jesus. Their faith is a faith of the flesh, corruptible and altogether insufficient.

A lot of these ideas in the last couple of paragraphs really need further explanation and reference to Scripture. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space left to do that in this post without going way past the average reader’s attention span, so I’ll save it for a part 3. But hopefully this will be helpful. Remember that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, and nothing can take that away, because it is based on the unchanging perfection of Jesus, not the ever-changing imperfections of yourself.

Secure Because Jesus (Can You Lose Your Salvation? Part 2)

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny

Off the top of my head I know my family has killed at least half a dozen dogs. Well, I say “killed,” but it’s really just that our land is cursed with the ability to drastically shorten any animal’s lifespan. Time would be too short to tell of the demise of Jax, Johnny Reb, Sadie, Rascal, and the others, not to mention our cats and their babies. This carries with it a small burden of sadness.

Given that pets are so beloved, and that as Christians we strongly believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones in eternity, it is only natural that people ask if our pets will accompany us. After all, who doesn’t want to console their child (or himself) with the thought that they will see Sparky again? So sometimes people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?”

Now, to our credit not many believers fool around with the idea that our animals will be in heaven like we will. But usually the argument goes something along the lines of “animals don’t have souls.” Even if true (that depends a lot on how you view soul, spirit, and consciousness), this probably isn’t the most relevant line of reasoning. There are two major factors being ignored here which I would like to highlight.

First, we should clarify what we mean by “heaven.” Remember, all, that we often conflate two different concepts when we use that word. Sometimes we mean the intermediate state, our being with God in Christ after our death but before the final resurrection. In this case, we can see clearly that, if an animal doesn’t have a soul, it could not be in “heaven,” because this heaven is (presumably) simply spiritual and the animal is strictly physical. But since that concept of animals is questionable anyway, I want to move on from that point.

We also use “heaven” to refer to the new creation after the Second Coming, when the heavens and the earth are restored, renewed, and perfected. This will be a truly physical place with some continuity between it and our present world. Naturally, there are almost certainly going to be animals there. Indeed, the Biblical descriptions of the Messiah’s kingdom (of which the new earth will be the final fulfillment) often include animals. But will these animals be resurrections of our own? Probably not, though it cannot be ruled out altogether. God is always a gracious and surprising God.

Secondly, we should remember why humans go to heaven and what distinguishes us from animals. The answer to this, most certainly, is Jesus Christ. In Jesus humanity is connected to God. Since He is both God and man, we humans have communion with God through Him. This is the basis for our salvation and for heaven. If we are to be part of heaven, it is because we have been united with the man Jesus, who is essentially united to God, and through whom we can be united to God.

For this reason, animals cannot play the same part in redemption. While it may or may not be that God will physically resurrect our pets as a gift to us in the new earth (this matter is nothing but speculation), we can be sure that animals have no essential communion with God. God did not become an animal. He did not incarnate as a dog, or a cat, or a platypus, or a yeti. There is nothing for the animals like the union between God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Therefore they have no inherent share in eternal life, heaven, or necessarily in the new creation. So when people ask, “Can animals go to heaven?” the answer is, for all intents and purposes, “no.” But that provides quite the in for explaining why and how we can through Jesus Christ.

Let us, therefore, be all the more joyful that out of all creatures, God has made us the objects of His love and brought us into fellowship with Him through His beloved Son. Amen.

Can Animals Go to Heaven? Fido’s Destiny