Either way, this all seems paltry. Isn’t this just the kind of “angels on the head of a pin” squabble that drives skeptics away from faith? And aren’t there more important questions we should be spending valuable time debating?
But when a side question drives two geniuses (who otherwise agree on so much) into heated disagreement, chances are we’ve hit on something important, even if only indirectly. In this case, Fido’s immortality has big implications for three larger questions: the question of God’s relationship to his creation, the question of death and immortality, and the question of our own human nature. My dog’s death is not just a sentimental matter – it’s a metaphysical one.
Hart’s heart is in the right place, but his argument is saddled with intellectual misfires. Feser’s mind is in the right place, but his argument – its metaphysical accuracy notwithstanding – ends with major misgivings. He may make the more persuasive case, but is it case closed?
It’s hard to see why people of faith should discount animals in heaven as a logical impossibility, no matter our metaphysics. In The Problem of Pain, CS Lewis adopts a Pauline perspective to argue that heavenly pets are at least conceivable. It’s “possible,” Lewis writes, “that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters.” God sanctifies humans, who humanize their pets, each chain linked to the other into eternity – or could it happen in some other way we can’t yet conceive? Peter Kreeft agrees that there’s nothing to stop us from entertaining the thought:
“The simplest answer I know to this question, so frequently asked by children, is: Why not? Children’s questions are usually the best ones, and we should beware treating them with any less seriousness than their askers have in asking them. Right now, pets, like everything else in this world, can mediate God’s love and goodness to us and train us for our union with him, or they can distract us from him. In Heaven, everything mediates and nothing distracts.”
I loved my dog, and I am heartbroken to say goodbye to him. Will I see him again? I don’t think so – not because I don’t love him, and definitely not because God doesn’t love him, but just because God has bigger things planned for his human family, who were made with reason and will in the image and likeness of God.
Still, can I say definitively I won’t be running around with him again at the end of it all? Not a chance. God is a God of surprises – that much I do know.
Matthew Becklo is a husband and father, amateur philosopher, and cultural commentator at Aleteia and Word on Fire. His writing has been featured in First Things, The Dish, and Real Clear Religion.