Heaven is for Hamsters is fairly long, but worth reading. It’s part of an actual conversation between PW and Honus, in which PW is trying to convince Honus to share the Gospel of Jesus with his hamster. Really…I’m not joking. If it seems a bit disjointed, remember that it’s a cut-and-paste conversation that occurred on Deja.com over a period of time…and we’re picking it up in progress.
Honus is my brother, Jeff. He passed away in 2019. Despite more than one profession of faith during his younger years, he claimed to be an atheist for his entire adult life. He died at home, alone. I don’t know if Jeff reached out to God in his final moments, but I hope that he did. Everything you read on GodWords was first put through “The Jeff Filter.” That is, I never post anything without wondering what my brother would say about it. If he would think it was nonsense, I figured I needed to explain it better. In spite of our differences in faith, Jeff had no trouble seeing that most of what I write is at least coherent. I miss him, and hope to see him again…but not right away.
PW: But God created every living creature for His Spirit. My little dog listened to Christian radio with me. He would be lying down, obviously listening to it, before I came into the room. I could see the look on his face when they talked about Jesus.
Honus: A purely Pavlovian response. Anyway, perhaps what’s happening is your dog, a little one and an indoor one at that, has been sitting beneath your dinner table. During the blessing for the meal, he consistently hears certain words, one of them being “Jesus.” Thus, when he hears “Jesus” on the radio, he pays attention because he thinks it’s chow time. Those aren’t God’s church bells ringin’, they’re Pavlov’s dinner bells. I get the same sort of (I assume) blissful expression on my face when I hear my wife talk about “dinner.”
On a more serious note, isn’t it bad enough that humans have to suffer all manner of terrors because of Adam and Eve, but all of the animals on the earth are in danger of suffering through horrible lives and deaths as well? That doesn’t sound like something coming down from a just god to me. Are you implying that animals have a sense of right and wrong, akin to what Christians charge humans as having? Is that why God didn’t just kill the evil humans with a flood, he killed all of the animals too? Because they have sinful natures? (Don’t tell me your dog never does wrong.) If your dog has some sense of Jesus and who he is, what else is he aware of? Animals must be aware of sin, if they’re suffering because of it. Otherwise, that definitely would not be just. Punishing the innocent never is. And where do you draw the line from the complex creatures like dogs, to the ‘simple’ ones like yeast? What’s the criteria?
Jeeze…at least my dog theory is falsifiable.
PW: No, I did not often say grace aloud at dinner. We have rarely done this at mealtime in my immediate family. This would confirm how hypocritical we Christians can be.
Honus: I’m surprised that the Christians here who do have verbal blessings at mealtimes haven’t spoken up in offense at being called hypocrites. After all, you did just insult a lot of people.
PW: What I meant was that you might assume that a Christian who does not say his prayers is a hypocrite. That isn’t true, of course, but a lot of Christians and non-Christians might think so. I sometimes pray in my head, before I eat. My family does pray out loud on special occasions. And when visiting one set of grandparents, my grandfather usually said grace.
Yes, I do believe that animals do have a sense of right and wrong. In the case of individual animals this can be eroded, suppressed, or developed. This means that they’re moral creatures just like we are, although to varying degrees.
Honus: And that raises any number of philosophical problems. I see images of sheep in confessionals before being sacrificed, to be sure that they’re “without blemish” on the inside as well as out. I think sacrificing an immoral sheep to the Lord would be quite offensive to him.
PW: Well, don’t expect me to understand the Old Testament Law in light of this.
Honus: I wouldn’t ask you to make sense of the nonsensical were your faith not as strong as it appears to be. Doesn’t it make much more sense that animals are amoral based solely on the fact that a freckle on a sheep’s ass rendered it unsuitable for a sacrifice to Jehovah, while no mention is made about whether or not the sheep is in accord with the will of God in its heart? And what if the sheep doesn’t want to be sacrificed? If he knows right from wrong, etc. then he must have some degree of free will since you maintain that animals can choose their “path” in some fashion. What if he doesn’t like your god, and doesn’t want to be sacrificed to him? What if the sheep was a Christian, or the pre-Jesus equivalent? Don’t you see anything wrong with sacrificing him? Sounds kind of pre-Columbian Central/South American-ish to me. (Not that human sacrifices weren’t performed elsewhere.)
PW: God wanted the best from His people. God knew the heart of each animal sacrificed. The human Hebrew owners usually didn’t. Besides, as the New Testament writers said, the sacrifices were only shadows and symbols of what Christ was to do-to take our sins away to Hell Himself. Not that most of the Levites knew that, much less any pagans.
Honus: What if the sheep was a Christian, or the pre-Jesus equivalent?
PW: Then he or she will probably trust and obey. God will take him or her up to be with Him.
Honus: Is that hypothesis testable? Would a Christian animal willingly submit itself to be put to a sacrificial death, or would the animal know somehow that the execution of Jesus did away with the need for animal sacrifice…thus the animal/victim would know that the sacrifice would be pointless?
Which brings up yet another dilemma…when did you last eat meat? Do you see no problem with eating what you believe to be sentient creatures, who worship the same God that you do?
PW: I rarely have thought about that. It is one reason for why I will not eat many species.
Honus: Well, then…you’ve given it some thought. How do you know which ones can be eaten or not? Do you have any rule of thumb, or is it just gut level instinct?
PW: It is gut level instinct.
Honus: Hmm. My gut level instinct tells me to fill it with meat at every opportunity that presents itself.
PW: Actually I do have my reasons. It would not be right to betray the trust of any living creature.
Honus: I’m not talking about eating the family pet…I’m talking about the flesh wrapped up in plastic at your grocer’s. You’re not on speaking terms with a lot of livestock, are you? Eating a pig that you’ve never met isn’t exactly a betrayal of trust.
[Picking up in the middle of a thought]
PW: …and between species of course it varies, generally with intelligence. Less intelligent animals can obey God, too.
Honus: If they can obey, they can disobey. Does that mean that bad dogs will go to Hell? If they know who Jesus is yet continue to poop indoors and chase cats, will they someday sit before the judgment throne and answer to God for their actions? Is it not in their nature to chase cats? How can they be faulted if it is? Do you consider your dog to be a Christian?
PW: The issue is not obeying rules but of one’s will; will you obey God, and whose side are you on. God is Who HE IS. He has created within every creature a sense of Who HE IS. He wants to give His Spirit to every living creature.
Honus: The bacteria rampaging in my throat right now don’t give a damn about Jesus. (Or aren’t they “creatures?”) I don’t think that my hamster does, either. And I know that Mrs. Honus’ cat doesn’t because she’s a cat…she doesn’t give a damn about anybody.
PW: Your hamster might, if told about Him. Same with your cat. (Although I know what you mean.)
So that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow: of things in heaven, things on Earth, and things under the Earth; and every tongue shall proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11.
Honus: I really don’t think that that applies to animal knees, and animal tongues.
PW: Well I do.
Honus: And why does the refrain “Four legs good…two legs ba-aa-aa-d” keep running through my head?
PW: A dog, like anyone else, will not go to Heaven for being good, but for accepting Jesus Christ, through His death on the Cross, as his or her personal Savior.
Honus: Animals do not have sinful natures, unless the answer to the age-old question “Who was Cain’s wife?” is “A goat.” in which case maybe you can argue (from a theistic standpoint, with no scientific basis) that all goats have sinful natures passed down to them from Adam. That obviously applies only to goats, and doesn’t cover all of the other “kinds” of creatures that have graced the planet. How can animals require redemption when they’ve never fallen? Come on…you’re screwing with me, aren’t you? If I find out that you’re racking up Loki points (for trolling) at my expense I’m gonna be pissed! Not that that means anything, but…you know. It’s rude.
PW: God will hold every dog accountable, but He will forgive. He will understand, because He knows how He made each dog.
Honus: You mean that God gave them that sinful nature that he’s going to send them to hell because of? I don’t see where else they got it, unless Adam’s original sin imparted a sinful nature to all of sentient creation… which would hardly be fair, or just.
PW: My dog did a lot that I did not approve of, but he obviously believed in and trusted Jesus. Yes, I do consider him to have been a Christian dog. I will see him when Christ returns.
Honus: Hell is really going to stink…have you ever smelled burning fur? And tossing water on the burning dogs (if there’s any to be tossed) won’t do much good either…wet dogs stink, too. As much as I envied the guy when I was a child, I don’t believe in Dr. Dolittle. (All parrots should be named Polynesia, IMO.) Just how exactly does one proselytize to a rodent? In English? Do I just read Bible verses to him? Do I merely repeat The Sweet Name o’ Jesus over an over, and hope that it sinks in? Do I look for a wistful expression on the hamster’s face to know that he’s been saved? Do you have any idea how much that would weird me out, seeing an expression on his face? I don’t care if it’s a happy one or not. And don’t you have to confess with your tongue that Jesus is Lord upon your conversion? How is Binky going to do that? And to who? I don’t want to hear about it, and I won’t let him attend church services. Come to think of it, neither will they. Isn’t that wrong? What if he truly loves Jesus? Bigotry is just unacceptable, and they ought to let him in. And if animals have souls and can choose right from wrong, and whether or not to accept Jesus and his redemption of their sins, then shouldn’t Christians be out trying spread the gospel to them as well as to humans? Or do humans simply have a greater priority? Why? Because they can give their 10% tithes in cash? Why don’t we see preachers at each slaughter-house ministering to those about to die, as we see them comforting those on Death Row? What’s the difference? Do Christians bless their meals because they might be about to ingest heretical beef? What about the mashed potatoes? Are they not creatures? Where do you draw the line between animal and vegetable? I hear that it gets pretty fuzzy at times, when you get to the smaller scales. And besides…hamsters are originally from Afghanistan. Preaching Christianity to them could very well start a jihad that we really don’t want to get mixed up in, don’t you think?
[Again, picking up in the middle of another thought]
PW: As for your bacteria, they do recognize Him for Who HE IS. They would care about Him, one way or the other. In some sense.
Honus: Without brains? What about living creatures like viruses and phages? They’re little more than macromolecules. Are they plants, or animals? Do they too recognize God in some fashion? How? There’s nothing to them. (At least for the sake of this discussion.) When I drink a beer, does the yeast immediately go to be with the Father? Do angels sing when the soul of a hamster is redeemed? How can you apply that verse in a literal sense and claim that it covers animal life as well as human life, when the vast majority of animal life has neither tongue nor knees? How can animals require redemption when they’ve never fallen?
PW: Animals did not need to fall by Adams means, much less through his and Eve’s sins. But they fell through the same basic motives. They each want to serve themselves.
Honus: Can I assume that you can give me some biblical references to support this? I can see someone asserting the position that Adam’s fall corrupted everything on the planet, not that I like the idea…but I don’t see any support for the idea that animals are in need of redemption because of their own actions.
PW: Each one of them is conceived and born or hatched into a universe captured by Satan. That is why each one of them needs redemption by Jesus.
Honus: I’m sorry, but that makes no sense. Just because tyrant “A” occupies or controls a particular region really has nothing to do with the people living within said region. The place of your birth can hardly make you guilty of something, the Crusades not withstanding.
Can I assume that you can give me some biblical references to support this? I can see someone asserting the position that Adam’s fall corrupted everything on the planet, not that I like the idea…but I don’t see any support for the idea that animals are in need of redemption because of their own actions.
PW: The Bible does not contradict it, and it makes sense to me.
Honus: And you’re comfortable basing an entire aspect of personal doctrine on this? Because it feels good, and the Bible doesn’t specifically rule it out? There’s no limit to what one can choose to believe, if that’s the criteria.
PW: Satan has gotten control over the wills of every living creature. The “free will” of a creature not saved through the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ is in Demonic spirits. Yet the Holy Spirit moves through the wills of unsaved creatures too and, no, I do not have it all worked out.
Honus: Well…if you’re making it up as you go along, it shouldn’t be -too- hard.
If he got control over animals, and they have the same morality as you and I with a need for redemption, etc., then he got that control directly from the hand of God. They didn’t do anything to deserve that fate. They’re without original sin.
Coincidentally, my four year old daughter was butted in the head by a big goat the other day as he was trying to push aside the smaller goats to get to the handfuls of food that she was offering them. Did the goat know that he was doing wrong, or was he just a dumb animal who didn’t know any better? Think carefully….a goats life hangs in the balance. (I know where that bastard lives.) Or does “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord” apply here?
PW: I don’t know. Was he your goat?
Honus: No, but that’s utterly beside the point. I don’t care whose goat he was. If I really believed that the goat was an intelligent, thinking, free moral agent capable of knowing right from wrong as you’ve indicated, and that he deliberately hurt my child like he did, I’d have likely killed him on the spot. Ultimately, what I’m getting at is do you advocate trials for animals that do wrong? It’s been done many, many times before. If they’re free moral agents as you believe, why don’t we try them? Weren’t bulls that gored men in Biblical times killed? If you were King, or if Jesus reigned, could I file assault charges?
PW: No, I do not advocate trials for animals. I do believe that dogs, for example, can be taught that certain behavior is wrong.
Honus: WHOA! What do you mean, “taught?” I agree that they can be taught not to do certain things, but not because I’m in some sort of struggle to over-ride their sinful natures.
PW: I assume that you have already worked things out with the goats owner.
Honus: Yeah…I gave him more money, and he gave us more food for the goats. (It was a petting farm.) It’s not worth suing over, simply because sometimes poop happens. And if the goat was just being a goat, as I believe it was, it’s not worth killing him over it. He’s just a dumb animal that doesn’t know better. You seem to have missed my point. Does the goat need to be “taught” that head-butting beautiful little girls is wrong? Does he instinctively know without being taught? Or is he just a goat?