Fact, Faith, and Findings
There is so much knowledge available in this world today. Students without access to a computer during the school day are quickly becoming the exceptions. They now have the world at their fingertips, and while they may not possess any more common sense than other generations did at their age, they certainly have absorbed more information and mastered the tools of our technological world.
I am told that computers, or at least certain computer groups, hold an estimated twenty to thirty pages of data on every person in the civilized world. Network news sources have estimated that the World Wide Web grows by more than 170,000 web pages every day, or over a million each week. That is amazing. At that rate, if a thousand people read one web page every ten minutes, non-stop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the rest of their lives, they would lose ground and never catch up. Whew!
Technology is racing ahead of us at a blinding clip. Super computers now process billions of transactions in mere seconds. It boggles one's imagination. I admit it is becoming too much for me. As I sit in front of my multifunctional, multicolored, multimedia, voice-command computer, I am in complete awe of technology. I get headaches wondering how the programs on the tiny chips actually work. I wonder how anyone acquires the knowledge that enables them to put a computer together.
I also wonder what the future holds. My generation mockingly laughed at the 1960s Zager and Evans song "In the Year 2525," when it suggested that machines would be doing everything for us and that our arms and legs would hang at our side with nothing to do. Of course, there were no PCs back then, so it was just a song. Now, I wonder. I can open programs on my PC with voice commands without touching a key. Someday soon we will be able to operate everything we do on the machine simply by talking to it. And to think that thirty years ago the calculator was the discovery of the ages!
There are so many places we may go in order to gather information ... the library, periodicals, files, and of course, computers. We can form opinions on virtually any subject, including technical subjects that are completely unfamiliar to us. We do not have to be experts, because the expert is now on the video or in the box on an electronic circuit board. We can acquaint ourselves with literally any aspect of any subject and become immediate novices through this blitz of information now available to us.
If we want to become experts, however, we must leave off from general knowledge writings and refer to the technical manual. General knowledge is usually some fact mingled with a lot of opinion. That is not a condemnation, just an observation. If we want to construct a boat, we need to follow technical blue-prints that give us facts. If we want to build a gas turbine, that, too, requires technical expertise and facts that can only be obtained from the accepted technical manuals.
The same is true of this topic of life after death after life. Literally tons of nontechnical reference materials exist on this subject, written by all sorts of people with all types of credentials-and motives. These people give you some fact and a lot of opinion. These facts are not technical, but qualify rather as general, basic knowledge. If we want expert fact and guidance on this topic, we must go to the technical manual. The technical manual on life and death is, in my opinion, the Holy Bible. In this matter of animal afterlife, use of the Bible becomes so much more important because there is a lack of general knowledge available to help form an opinion.
It is here, in the Bible, where we learn of mankind's (meaning men and women from the Greek word Cosmos) beginning, end, and eternity. Many individuals scoff at the Bible, but the fact is this book alone has an authority unknown to the sum total of all other books written by men and women, including this very one that you are reading.
Nevertheless, many have put that self-proclaiming truth aside and undertaken, with nothing but their own opinion as a basis, to produce writings that are in conflict with the Bible. These writings do not diminish the unimpeachable authority of the Bible, nor detract from the account of mankind it contains.
I do not wish to offend anyone with my position on the Bible. I merely want to establish from the outset that I revere the Bible above any other writing and that the Bible is the technical manual that I consulted and yielded to in all of the conclusions drawn herein. Where better could someone turn to learn about the hereafter, than to the timeless, yet timely book that was authored by the one who lives there?
I think a quote from this great book will underscore why I rely on the Bible so totally for comfort and guidance. I know the quote is taken a bit out of the context for which it was given, but the tenet of comforting others that it sets forth is prevalent throughout scripture. Simply, it reads:
Wherefore, comfort one another with these words. -I Thessalonians 4:18
These words were penned by the Apostle Paul and delivered to the church at Thessalonica. They were intended to be thoughts of encouragement and comfort, not only for the folks in that time, but for any and all who would place their trust in God the Son. His words teach us a valuable principle that I would like to address. To do so, we must first understand the circumstances that prompted his being directed to write to this church. This may take us on a short rabbit trail, but I assure you, it is important to the case I am building.
The faith of the Thessalonians was wavering. They were making the classic spiritual mistake that most believers make at one time or another in their Christian experience ... they were "thinking" instead of "believing." Faith is the "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1)-or, in other words, faith is believing God. Doubt was starting to take hold. The Thessalonians were wondering what had become of their departed loved ones. Paul assured them through these inspired passages that they would meet their dead in Christ again. What a marvelous comfort this must have been-to have such a giant in the faith confirm the promise of God to them.
If you are taking time to read this book, it is likely that you are doing so because you have recently had the misfortune of losing a pet.
Now, before you raise a wary doctrinal eyebrow, let me assure you that I am not trying to include animals in the event that is addressed in this portion of scripture, an event endearingly known to those of the Christian faith as the "rapture." Rather, I am illustrating the attribute of God to exercise providential care over the grieving and to give them comfort and hope as He did here through the Apostle Paul. His word is full of examples of his caring and loving nature. The principle is clear ... we are to "comfort one another" in spiritual matters. It is in obedience to this command that I offer my thoughts and conclusions on the many issues associated with what happens when our loving pets come to the end of their earthly road.
If you are taking time to read this book, it is likely that you are doing so because you have recently had the misfortune of losing a pet, or perhaps are concerned that you someday will have to face that eventuality. Since our life spans are so much longer than that of the animals we take as pets, unless you are very old and yourself at risk of expiring, the chances are very good that your concerns are justified.
A dear friend of mine-Will-is one of the most kindhearted people I have ever met. He asked me rhetorically one morning in regards to his three-year-old dog named Sweetheart, "Gary, what will I ever do if she dies?" Will and his wife had no children. They were wrapped up totally in their little girl Sweetheart. I know Will loved her deeply, like a child, because she was spoiled just like someone spoils a child. He once brought her to my office to introduce her to me. She promptly squatted and soiled my carpet. All Will could manage through his ear-to-ear grin was "Isn't she precious!"
Then Will asked me a question that he obviously wanted an answer to. He said, "Gary, do pets go to heaven?" He knew I was a Baptist preacher and that I knew the Bible well. He expected an answer, and I wish I could have given him one, but the truth was, I just did not know.
The question, therefore, went unanswered. Now, a dozen years later, as I bring my work and research to paper, Will and Sweetheart come to mind. If Sweetheart is still alive, she would be nearly sixteen. I know Will is still alive because once a year or so we exchange cards or e-mail. So one of the first copies of this book will be heading to my good friend. I am happy that I will finally be able to answer his question. I know he will rejoice to know that he will see his Sweetheart again.
If you are anything like Will or me, then I suspect your motive for reading this book is to find answers, to find comfort for the loss you feel. If that is so, coincidentally, your reason for reading this book parallels my motive for writing it. I simply was seeking comfort for the pain of losing a very special and very close friend.
One could misconstrue this book's contents then as nothing more than wishful thinking, and that I was grasping for anything to bring my grieving heart relief. While I have no doubt that my grief moved me to seek answers and help from the scriptures, I assure you that I was dreadfully aware of the danger of allowing my heart to make the Bible say what I wanted it to say, and I guarded myself diligently from being so swayed.
My grief did not cause me to abandon the fundamental principles of research. I know all too well how people fool themselves into applying what they want to be true to what is actually true, and I did not want to fall into that trap. I do not mean that people are intentionally deceitful, but rather that they allow emotions to sway them into massaging what is said into what they want to hear.
I simply love the Bible, and I love learning new things from it. I began seeing things about animals that I had never seen before.
I assure you that I did not build and document a self-serving case. I will admit that had my research led me to conclude that animals have no part in the afterlife, I probably would not have written a book on the subject. That conclusion would have been too depressing to do so. Nevertheless, if the Bible did teach that, I would have accepted it as truth and somehow managed to cope with that awful revelation. Thank God this was not the case; it is clear that He loves these creatures and finds great pleasure in them.
Actually, while grief served as the ignition to get me started in my research, it did not remain my motivator for long. Somewhere early on in my research, during prayer and meditation, my grief took a backseat to enthusiasm. I simply love the Bible, and I love learning new things from it. I began seeing things about animals that I had never seen before. It absolutely staggered me that I had spent so much time in the Bible and had never paid attention to this subject.
As a result of this discovery, I have spent thousands of hours studying and learning and have come up with many exciting conclusions and ideas that I want to share with you. I have tried to capture each of my observations as clearly and honestly as possible.
I must confess that there is not an abundance of scripture that addresses the eternity of animals, which may explain the virtual absence of books on the subject throughout the ages. Still, God gives us a wealth of passages associated with animals and how important they are.
While the exact topic of animal afterlife is not specifically addressed in detail, I want you to understand that there are many other subjects not addressed directly in the Bible, for which we humans lack no opinion. People take stands on all sorts of things, often claiming a biblical origin, when in fact, there is no specific guidance.
How do we arrive at these spiritual positions? Simply, we use the tools God has provided to each of us. We look at applicable passages, evaluate other, related principles found in other passages, consider all the associated nonbiblical information, and apply deductive reasoning (logic).
Let me give an example of how these tools work together to give us discernment on a particular subject. Consider the subject of illegal drugs. Is there anyone in the civilized world today who is not enlightened about the ill effects of natural or synthetic chemicals upon the human body? I should think not. Even those who are enslaved by these habit-forming drugs and who continue to punish their bodies day after day with them readily admit that they wish they could free themselves from the suffering it causes them.
Now then, the Bible mentions drugs in several places, none which really could be applied to prove overwhelmingly that drugs are harmful. The Bible does not say, "Thou shalt not use cocaine," for instance. We have no clear teaching on that particular drug. We know it hurts our bodies. We know it is illegal to possess and use. But hey, the Bible doesn't specifically mention cocaine, so....
We are told to "rightly divide the truth" by the Bible. In other words, we are to let it interpret itself. By comparing scripture to scripture, we can arrive at constants or truths. To conclude cocaine is okay by the Bible is to wrongfully divide the word of truth. If we know it is harmful and sometimes fatal to our bodies, we know the Bible teaches an associated principle that precludes the use of cocaine. The Bible teaches we should care for our bodies as a temple. Applying logic tells us not only that cocaine is not good, but that it is in fact, bad.
There is no clear guidance, but building upon principles from the word and applying logic, we arrive at a conclusion, a very solid one at that. Similarly, when it comes to our beloved pets, there is no clear guidance that says "animals go to heaven." However, we can use the same tools we used in our example to arrive at a supportable position on this topic.
Obviously I cannot assure you that all the conclusions in this book are ironclad, right on the mark, exactly as I tell you facts. I believe them to be, but I am only a man. I labored hard to arrive at the conclusions here. I would not mislead, nor would I ever present something as fact if I were not convinced it were so.
But, to be fair, this is new ground we are covering. To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted to research, catalog, and expound upon this topic from a biblical perspective before. I received virtually no help in my research and spent many long, tiring hours on this project. Consequently, the potential for error in some of my "ideas" exists. Someone, perhaps you, may come along and say "Hey, good job, but did you consider this!" I welcome your constructive input. You might enhance this work and have a hand in helping someone in need. That is how technical works are refined.
Having said all that, the bottom line for me is that I feel very confident that the conclusions I present in this book are a factual, close representation. Embodied in my confidence, however, beyond the research, is my faith in God and His goodwill toward His creation. That faith was a critical factor in my research and therefore contributed greatly to the development of my conclusions. As a consequence, while I know my conclusions to be true and am able to transfer that knowledge to you, I cannot transfer my faith. That is something you will have to provide.