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Animals and plants - have they souls?


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#1 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:30 AM

Dear all,

What is the status of animals in Orthodox doctrine? Obviously cats, dogs, lions, sheep and bears are not possessed of a rational soul in the same sense as humans, but are they just the same as vegetable life? Is a beloved household pet the same as a cabbage? And what is our responsibility towards creatures in terms of their suffering? If we see a cat, for example, hit by a car but still living, what ought we as Christians do? I don't mean in a purely sentimental sense, but also what is the Church teaching on animals? Do animals, for example, exist as individual souls (albeit not rational?)? Will they be resurrected? Do they go to heaven, or even hell?

In Christ
Byron


#2 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 02:57 PM

According to Orthodox teaching man is delegated by God to care for creation. Man is also responsible for creation in the sense that as it is his sin which causes the suffering of creation (man sins, creation groans)- so in some unseen way our struggle in Christ vs sin also affects the creation in a larger positive way. This is just to say that our care should extend to all of creation and this happens naturally as we grow in Christ as the lives of the saints so amply attests.

For example saints Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov both were so grace-filled that wild bears approached them and stayed by them just as would little children around adults they love. St Gerasim had his lion which obeyed like an obedient monastic and upon the saints' repose the lion also reposed. This care also extended beyond animal life for example in St Cosmas of Aetolos' instruction that all Orthodox should plant trees.

The Holy frs certainly know of the difference scientifically and spiritually between organic and inorganic (ie a dog and a rock). For them the difference is seen as one of sensibility.

It is the soul which is the activating part of an organic creature- so animals have souls. But as to whether the soul of an animal survives death-either St John of Damascus or St Gregory Palamas said they do not survive death. They go on to explain theologically why this is but I have never been able to understand this explanation. I don't mean I disagree- I mean I literally don't understand the sense of the words they use to explain this! (I will try to post this explanation if I can find it).

Man possibly inherently hates to think of any of creation ultimately disappearing. Partly this is due to the emotional way in which we relate to animals nowadays- but partly it is also a matter of justice as animals are often faithful companions. As Christians however whatever it is that we expect in regards to animals it must be part of our hope that all of creation will be redeemed. So if when creation is remade by Christ we find ourselves in the company of animals many of us probably will not be disappointed.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#3 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 05:52 PM

From a post made by Herman Blaydoe, June 7, 2004.

"In comparing the soul of man with that of animals, St. Gregory [Palamas] says that animals possess a soul not as essence, but as an energy. 'The soul of each of the irrational animals is the life for the body it animates, and so animals possess life not essentially, but as an energy, since this life is dependent on something else and is not self-subsistent.' Therefore since the soul of animals has only energy, it dies with the body. By contrast, the soul of man has not only energy but also essence: 'The soul possesses life not only as an activity, but also essentially, since it lives in its own right... For that reason, when the body passes away, the soul does not perish with it.' It remains immortal [by God's Grace].' [St Gregory Palamas 150 Chapters, ch 38]."


I still do not understand anything of this important statement beyond the first part of the sentence of how for animals the soul is the life of the body it animates.

The point being made seems to hinge on how the nature of animals is distinct from that of man. But one basic question is how can there be energy without essence (as in animals)? From what does the energy originate if not from an essence, ie from the nature of the distinct creature? I guess what I am asking is how can there be a soul in creatures without an essence? I usually think of a soul as the activating part of the nature or essence.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#4 Guest_Doug Gwinn

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:11 AM

Fr. Raphael,

Thank you for your comments. I can't believe Byron asked the question--I love it! My wife and I were just talking about this the other day since all things Orthodox are new to us. We love dogs. We have 4 dogs (and 2 kids; no, and we don't love them in that order! It's only it was harder to get kids since we had to adopt them.)

Doug


#5 Vasilis Kirikos

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 03:32 AM

> Once there was an old Greek man who regularly attended his Greek Orthodox church in New York City. He lived alone save that of his dog, Diogenes who lived with his every waking moment since the man's retirement. . Sadly one day his dog, Diogenes died. The man was in deep grief over the demise of his dog, Diogenes. Living in New York City the old man decided to go to his local parish and ask his Greek priest about having a memorial service for poor Diogenes. Whereupon immediately after he asked him, the priest quipped with some indignation "Are you serious? Don't you realize where you are? Look around you! No! Certainlty not!" replied the priest. The man got up, and feeling very sad started walking out the church's door; but the priest feeling sorry for the poor man told his parishioner "look, there is some sort of new age group down the street. Maybe this new age group will be able to help you with some sort of service for your dog. I really don't know what they are all about, but maybe they can do something for your dog. "Really?" responded the sad man, "Really? Do you think they will take the $20,000 for poor Diogenes memorial?" Hearing this, the priest shouted out to the old man.. "What!?!?! WAIT!!! COME BACK!! DON'T GO! YOU DIDN'T TELL ME YOUR DOG WAS GREEK!!!" This may or may not be a true story!! This past early November I was told by my parish priest on our way to visit a friend who lay dieing in the ICU at George Washington University Hospital...that, "I could not find Harry's name among the membership of our parish; but I will go with you anyway. However" he continued, "you know that we have to charge non-members fees for services....$1000 for a wedding" so much for a baptism, so much for a funeral and so on. He told me that I should consider that the chruch was just like any other organization and required money to funciton... FINE I thought; but my friend may be dieing and I DON'T WANT TO HEAR FINANCES JUST NOW" in my mind I was shouting! Why can't a PRIEST, of all people realize that was not the apporpriate time to discuss MONEY! ..We continued to travel to the hospital in his car. We got to the ICU and there lay my friend, Harry. He was totally unconscience and had machines breathing for him and cleaning his blood and I don't know what all.....I was in shock. Only a few days before I had spoken to him in his home...He seemed fine at the time. he was .only 57 years old. My priest said a brief prayer and immediately turned to go...He did not annoint Harry with Holy Oil. He did not even bother to put a cheap paper an Icon above the man's bed...One day later when it was learned that Harry was to be cremated my priset told me that because Harry was goiing to be cremated that he would perform no funeral; not even a memorial! Now I happen to know that the Russian jurisdiciton has made special dispensation for their Japanese members; and the Russian Orthodox do indeed perform funeral services for these members who are cremated. SO IT IS NOT WRITTEN IN STONE!! "NO FUNERAL FOR THOSE CREAMTED"!!! Furthermore, I recall the back bending the Greek Archdioces in Greece did when Jackie Kennedy Onassis married Aristotle...considering his past that should not have been allowed in The Chruch...but Aristotle Onasis had MONEY! So that makes it all different?? I know that I am a bit bent out of shape, so to speak having lost 3 relatives and 6 friends since this past August; but what goes on here? Why for some and not others? What possible difference does it make if one is cremated or is allowed to be eaten by worms in the ground as a criterion for a funeral or even a memorial service? A lot of guys were burned alive in Viet Nam...they were essentially CREAMATED! Does that mean they could not have gotten a funeral in the Greek church here in the USA? I am very upset over this. Moreover, it just happens that this man, my friend Harry was unemployed, and both he and his wife were on disability. Harry was disabled after having heart surgery, and soon after his surgery the tech school where he taught electronics closed his entire department and layed him off without any benefits. He was in the hospital for some more surgery but developed complications and died in the hospital. His wife now has to sell their home to make ends meet. NO FUNERAL? WHY NOT? Vasilis Kirikos....for the record, both of my parents are from Greece....


#6 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 06:20 AM

Dear Fr Raphael,

Thank you for your responses to the question about animals. If I've understood you correctly, animals (latin anima= soul), unlike vegetable or mineral life, are considered sentient beings by the Fathers, and do possess a soul, though not in the same sense as mankind. St Gregory Palamas identifies the difference as being that the animal soul is simply the life in their body, which is an energy; it does not also have essence, as does the human soul. I also wonder how this is possible, and how this relates to the broader question of the logoi of different beings in creation as their essences.

You also identify three other important points (correct me please if I'm mistaken):

1) Man should care for all of creation in his role as its steward. Conversely, human sin somehow contributes to the suffering of creation.
2) Grace-filled saints were blessed with experiencing relationships with wild animals which were unlike anything we commonly know: an obedient lion, for example; this is a return to a prelapsarian edenic state, I suppose. Such a special relationship with God's creatures is the Christian understanding of the potentially harmonious relation between man and creation. (One psychoanalytic observation here: the example of saints living in cooperation with wild animals may be seen as a metaphor for man's mastery over his instinctual life; but to a Christian the lives of the saints are not metaphors, they are true)
3) The Christian hope that all creation may be redeemed, could mean that in a new heaven and a new earth we may find ourselves surrounded by friendly animal creatures. May we also hope, without falling into heresy, that we will meet again with the pets we've been separated from by death?

In Christ
Byron


#7 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 13 February 2006 - 07:39 PM

To quote from Saint Silouan the Athonite and Archimandrite Sophrony:

"The Staretz was careful even about plants - he thought that to rough-handle them went against the teachings of grace...this pity...was linked in him with the most realistic approach to everything in the world. As a Christian he admitted that every living thing was created for man's benefit...Consider in his writings what the Staretz thought and felt about animals. On the one hand there is his really striking compassion for all creation, an example of which we find in his account of how he bewailed his own harshness in 'unnecessarily' killing a fly...He looked on animals and wild beasts...(whom) man should not become attached to, for one most love God with all one's mind, with all one's heart, with all one's strength - that is, absolutely forgetful of the earth."

To quote from Archimandrite Sophrony:

"We often see people so attached to animals that they are even 'friends' with them. This the Staretz (Silouan) considered to be a perversion of the order established by God and contrary to the normal state of man (cf. Gen. ii:20)

"And Adam gave names to all the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (King James version)

Again from Archimandrite Sophrony:

"In the whole of the New Testament there is not a single instance of the Lord paying attention to animals, though He, of course, loved every living thing. Attaining to...perfection of human nature, in the image of the Man-Christ, is the task set before us, appropriate to our nature as created in the likeness of God, and therefore affection and attachment to animals, so the Staretz thought, debases the human form of being. In this respect he writes,

'Some people attach themselves to animals but in so doing they grieve the Creator, for man is called to love the One God. It is wrong to have a passion for animals - one must only commiserate with all living things.'

"He would say that all things were created to serve man, and so, when necessary, everything could be made use of but, at the same time, man was obliged to care for all creation. Therefore, harm done unnecessarily to an animal - to plant life, even - gainsays the law of grace. But attachment to animals likewise goes against the Divine commandment, since it diminishes love for God and one's neighbour.

"Anyone who genuinely loves mankind, and in his prayers weeps for the whole world, cannot attach himself to animals." pgs. 94-96, Saint Silouan the Athonite.

I, by the way, have two cats. At one time I had ten cats and a dog.

My own Bishop is seldom seen without his two cats crawling with affection all over him.


#8 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 04:42 PM

Dear Byron,

There is a wonderful book about this called Animals & Man by Joanne Stefanatos D.V.M. Most of the book is actually from the Lives of the Saints and indeed as you suggest points to how in Christ our relationship to animals becomes that of Adam & Eve with creation in Eden.

Of course there is a double side to this since we are not only talking about a re-established harmony of creation but also a harmony based on dispassion. Thus the two sides which Fr Seraphim refers to in his post about Staretz Silouan who on the one hand could weep over a broken branch but yet warned about having pets.

One point in all of this worth keeping in mind is that due to man's role of microcosm he bears a great responsibility for redeeming sin within the whole cosmos. This sheds light on the fact already referred to in St Paul's epistles that even though animals bear the effects of sin it is ultimately we who are responsible for this. But put the other way around this also sheds light on man's original purpose as shepherd for all of creation. Man's purpose is to be beyond himself in love.

Does this refer to the question we are having difficulty with about essence and energy in animals and man? Somehow I suspect the words of St Gregory Palamas come from a larger context about man. The words 'essence' and 'energy' certainly are familiar to us as part of his explanation of God's immanence. Since man is in the image of God perhaps St Gregory also ties this essence/energy distinction into the nature of man(?).

About the future of animals I do not know. Whatever is to be we should understand that this in accord with God's ultimate purposes which are for the best. As in starets Silouan's warning about too emotional a bond with animals we have a tendency at times to also project these emotional bonds onto God and expect He also will honour these.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


#9 Fr Seraphim (Black)

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 10:59 AM

My dear Vasilis,

You certainly have every right and need to be 'bent out of shape' having lost so many loved ones in such a short period of time.

One, unfortunately sees much in Orthodoxy that one would not rather witness.

Much is due to human frailty and the fallen world in which we live.

You begin with the animal story about 'Diogenes" Much has been written and is clearly visible, that 'man's best friend' saves lives, comforts broken hearts, express joy upon our return home, and even leaps for joy! (Which can not be said for certain family members when we return from a difficult work day, or as the ladies like to say 'a bad hair day'.)

There is need of discernment in the 'harshness' in St. Silouan's words about PASSIONATE attachment to animals, and my own comment regarding my Bishop's two cats, my own two cats, and having once had ten cats and a dog.

The fact or not about the dog being Greek, is like myself being greeted as non-Orthodox because I am of Scottish heritage.

Over time you learn to grin and bear it.

Of a different and far more serious situation is the treatment of your friend Harry. Here anger rises easily. Believe me, I have lived a great portion of my monastic life in hospitals.

In general, doctors and nurses, are truly angels. This has been my experience.

Priests, on the other hand, come in various colours. Some are overwhelmed by personal impoverishment - raising young children, marital dialogue, in laws (out-laws), and caught at the 'wrong' moment can seem like exploding volcanoes.

Yet, there are Priests who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, always rise above the mundane. But they are, sadly few and far between.

But Vasilis, it is wrong to criticize a Priest, regardless of his conduct. After all does he not have the charisma from his ordination to change wine and water into the Body and Blood of our Lord?

In a perfect world none of this would need to be addressed. But we do not live in a perfect world. We are 'broken images' to paraphrase Fr. Raphael.

If you allow yourself to dwell on these matters, of what spiritual profit is it truly?

Can we convert all Priests to the level, say, of St. John of Kronstadt?

Can we even, ourselves, be truly Christian? It is a long, hard road, and many tears are shed.

But there is a Divine purpose behind all this, and that is the crucifixtion of our fallen mind and fallen perception of how things should be.

I know many theologians, Abbots, Abbesses, Spiritual Fathers, Spiritual Mothers, monks, nuns, laity...the list can go on. Of these, I have never met one who was not at one time mistreated, misused, slandered, vilified, called a heretic, cast off like a dirty rag - God forbid, it has happened so often, and will continue to happen because we live in a fallen world.

Issues of the Greek Archdiocese, the Russian Church outside Russia, the Orthodox Church in America, etc., it can and does fill volumes. But the volumes are worthless, unless we make them worth our time.

God exists, but so does the devil.

Best in my humble experience is to lay down your life and give your heart to Christ.


#10 Byron Jack Gaist

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 10:13 AM

Dear Fr Seraphim,

harm done unnecessarily to an animal - to plant life, even - gainsays the law of grace. But attachment to animals likewise goes against the Divine commandment, since it diminishes love for God and one's neighbour.


Orthodox teaching refreshingly cuts across all human tendency to sin, in ways unexpected by the merely rational mind. The same staretz who bewails the death of a fly by his own hand, advises strongly against sentimental attachment to our furry friends! Sometimes this innocent-seeming love really can become a "perversion", as in the case of people who love animals more than other people; but surely again, a little creaturely companionship, in the right proportion, with a cat or dog is not disliked or disapproved of by the Lord, is it? Surely it can simply come under the more general meaning of "caring" for all creation?

Dear Vasilis,

As far as I am aware church canons forbid the receipt of money for sacraments, a serious sin known as simony. It is true however that churches have to raise funds for their operation, and so here in Cyprus we are encouraged to make a certain "contribution" for e.g. getting married or christening a child. I don't know what would happen if a person refused to make this contribution, but I assume the service would go ahead anyway.

You write:

What possible difference does it make if one is cremated or is allowed to be eaten by worms in the ground as a criterion for a funeral or even a memorial service?


Christian belief is that we will be resurrected bodily, and that our bodies are temples of the Lord. To burn the body is a sign of disrespect to it, even if God is perfectly capable of resurrecting us even from the ashes. You also write:

A lot of guys were burned alive in Viet Nam...they were essentially CREAMATED! Does that mean they could not have gotten a funeral in the Greek church here in the USA?


There is surely an obvious difference between choosing to be cremated, and being burned by enemy fire in a war. I'm not a clergyman, but I don't think the Church would have a problem with funeral services for those fallen in battle in this way, if their ashes could be recovered (what do you say, Frs Raphael and Seraphim?).

I am very sorry to hear about your friend Harry, God rest his soul, and his struggling wife. Perhaps in the future if you feel a priest has not said or done enough, or they are paying too much attention to worldly matters like money, you ought to say something. You might be pleasantly surprised by getting a positive response (then again you might not, but at least you'll know you tried, and might have thereby drawn the priests' attention to these serious issues).

I often hear people here in Cyprus and in Greece, even from within the faith, complain about the Church as a worldly power and its relationship to money. What can I say? Sin is sin, whether you're a layman or a Patriarch.

In Christ
Byron

#11 Theophrastus

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 07:46 PM

How does Orthodoxy view animals and plants? Are they seen to be conscious in some way? Do they participate in theosis in some fashion?

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 08:18 PM

How does Orthodoxy view animals and plants? Are they seen to be conscious in some way? Do they participate in theosis in some fashion?


According to the teaching of the Church it is our sin at the Fall which caused the creation to fall also. So creation as St Paul says, groans. But it also awaits our redemption so that it too can be delivered from death.

In the lives of many of the saints we see this redeeming action in regards to the creation already at work. Around the saints many wild and fierce animals became mild & obedient. In a real way this was like Paradise restored, or at least a taste of this.

A book named Animals & Man by Joanne Stefanatos was published a number of years ago. This book contains accounts of the many saints who interacted with the animal creation like Adam & Eve did in Paradise.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 John Charmley

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 08:38 PM

Dear Jetavan,

Neither animals nor plants were made in the image of God, so it is hard to see how they could undergo theosis.

However, Origen had some things to say on this subject which might be of interest:

Providence primarily cares for rational beings, but encompasses irrational animals which also profit from what is designed for man. For since God clearly rules over the motion of heaven and what is in it and over what is accomplished on earth and sea by His divine skill - the birth, origins, foods, and growth of all different animals and plants - it is foolish to close our eyes and not look to God (cf. Isa. 6:10; Matt. 13:15; Acts 28:27)


He also uses 'animal' in a less literal sense when he says:

But the Church also has animals, hear how it says it in the Psalms: "Lord, you will make men and beasts safe” (Ps. 35:7). These, therefore, who are dedicated to the study of the word of God and of reasonable doctrine, are called men. But those who are living without such studies and do not want exercises of knowledge, but are nevertheless faithful, they are called animals, though, to be sure, clean ones. for just as some are men of God, so some are
sheep of God.


As Fr. Raphael says, there are many accounts of how, in the presence of Holy Men and Women wild animals return to the state of gentleness which characterised their original relationship with unfallen Man.

If it was not for the resurrection, the end of the human body would have been the same as that of animals, and, like the flowers and grasses, we would fade and wither, and the place we were would know us no more.

From this we are saved by His redeeming love.

I hope this helps.

In Christ,

John

#14 Kusanagi

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 03:20 PM

How does Orthodoxy view animals and plants? Are they seen to be conscious in some way? Do they participate in theosis in some fashion?


Well it does say in the psalms that everything that has breath praises the Lord. Also St Seraphim of Sarov qoutes this too.
I still think to Orthodox we were created to govern the animals and resepct them together with nature (plants) but when i talk to Orthodox people outside of the UK about animal rights and plant lovers they give me a strange look like they are going too far as to subject themselves to the animals or plants rather than the other way around.
I think Theosis is for mankind only as we fell and God came to heal us not the animals or plants they were innocent and became corrupted because of our fall, and so that we will not be alone in our fall but the animals and plants take part in this too. Read it in one of the catechism books but i forgot which one i think its a Fr George Dragas one.

#15 John Craford

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 02:27 PM

I would like to ask are there going to be animals and plants in Heaven? Will they be ressurected too? What happens to animals and plants when they die; are they no more, or like humans their soul goes to Heaven or hell? Hope I didn't ask too much (forgive me!). Thanks.

#16 Paul Cowan

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 01:12 AM

In short, no. Plants and animals do not have souls therefore will not go to heaven or hell. These places are for humans alone and the angels He created.

Paul

#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 04:51 AM

Saint John tells us there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1). What sort of new earth would it be without plants and animals?

#18 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 01:32 PM

So far we have only considered this question from the point of view of what happens to animals after they die; ie how does death affect the souls of animals.

Another thing very important to keep in mind however is what is contained in the first chapter of Genesis:

20. And God said, "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.."

21. And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the water swarmed after their kind, and every winged creature after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

22. And God blessed them saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."

24. Then God said, "let the earth bring forth living creatures of after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind."; and it was so.

25. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.


Yes, it could very well be that due to sin, whose fruit is death, animals cease to be after they die.

Keep in mind though that this death is due to us and our sin, from which 'the creation now groans.' If animals completely perish now at death it is due to us.

God's original purpose though was not this but rather of a Paradise of continuous life without sin. And as we see from the above, animals had their place in this as an aspect of the beauty of God's creativity.

So then the question should be: what of God's purpose in that new reality? Will it include His original purpose or not? If so then how?

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#19 John Craford

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 05:49 PM

Fr Raphael wrote:

Keep in mind though that this death is due to us and our sin, from which 'the creation now groans.' If animals completely perish now at death it is due to us.

God's original purpose though was not this but rather of a Paradise of continuous life without sin. And as we see from the above, animals had their place in this as an aspect of the beauty of God's creativity.

So then the question should be: what of God's purpose in that new reality? Will it include His original purpose or not? If so then how?

In Christ- Fr Raphael



Then there is a chance that animals and plants will be a part in the new world after the Final Judgement?Or not so?

#20 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 28 August 2007 - 09:25 PM

Then there is a chance that animals and plants will be a part in the new world after the Final Judgement?Or not so?


I don't really know. It's striking though that all of the experiences of that other world refer to a clearly created reality.

Not as we know this now, but in a renewed sense. Thus there is experience of individual people, a terrain (plants, trees of some sort), and yes, some see animals, especially birds.

Now all of this could be interpreted as only symbolic but I do not think this is correct. For after all just because that world will be an entirely renewed one does not at all imply it will not be a clearly created one. In other words the experience of that other world does not accord with popular descriptions of people with angel wings floating by each other on clouds but rather a discernibly created world that corresponds to this one in some sense.

In Christ- Fr Raphael




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