In Christianity, dogs can go to heaven

Philosophy: Why Animals Could Go to Heaven

Rainer Hagencord heads the only center for theological zoology in Europe in Münster. With WELT ONLINE he spoke about the soul of a cat, senseless slaughterhouse suffering and the question of what the resurrection of Jesus has to say to the animals.

WORLD ONLINE : Mr. Hagencord, does Easter also have something to say to the animals?

Rainer Hagencord : But yes. The resurrection also promises salvation and happiness to animals.

WORLD ONLINE : As the? Animals hardly play a role in the New Testament.

Hagencord : Yes, animals only appear marginally. The few relevant places have it all. An example: When Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, he lived “with the wild animals”, as it is called in the Gospel of Mark. This alludes to the Garden of Eden when Adam still lived in harmony with the animal world.

WORLD ONLINE : Translate it.

Hagencord : That means: Jesus wants the reconciliation of humans and animals, salvation includes all creatures. That also fits the creation account. There the human being is asked to "rule" over the animals. The Hebrew word for it means to look after his wards like a good king.

WORLD ONLINE : Then the thinkers of Christianity misunderstood something. They hardly deal with animals, apart from Albert Schweitzer.

Hagencord : That's right, animals have been forgotten in theology. But there are exceptions like Karl Barth, who even asked whether humans exist for the sake of animals. The lack of attention to animals has probably to do with the fact that questions such as species decline or factory farming have only been so urgent for a few decades. To paraphrase Paul: The longing of creation for redemption has never been greater than it is now.

WORLD ONLINE : And? Are you hoping for such a redemption for animals?

Hagencord : Animals are not in need of salvation in the sense that their guilt should be forgiven. The animal doesn't choose between good and bad, so it doesn't take any guilt either.

WORLD ONLINE : On the other hand, animals sometimes seem extremely cruel. Spiders build webs as deadly traps, lions eat poor zebras, cats shred small mice ...

Hagencord : But even the cat who plays with a mouse in order to kill it in the next moment does not act consciously and sadistically. That is reserved for us.

WORLD ONLINE : If animals don't need forgiveness - what does Easter promise animals?

Hagencord : They too will one day return home like the risen Jesus to paradise, to the other reality.

WORLD ONLINE : Where does this confidence come from?