Posted by: the warrioress | December 11, 2011

Soul & Spirit II – The Soul of Animals?

Pope John Paul II confirmed that animals do have a soul and that yes, they would be with us within Heaven. (Source) Many theologians, however, do not believe this to be the case.

I decided to do some reading on this and was startled to find that opinions vary all across the board.

 Theologians appear to pretty much disagree with the Pope, and feel that animals, while being living “souls” as we are, do not carry an immortal soul that lives on past death, as ours does.

Pet owners of all shapes and sizes disagree with the studied theologians; they feel that there can be no doubt that animals have souls.

As a lover of all animals and life, I tend to agree with the side of the aisle that feels that animals do have a soul, great intelligence and intuitiveness, and the ability to empathize. I’m not sure, however, that animals have a ‘spirit,’ which is the part of us that endures, that lives on eternally after acceptance of Jesus Christ and belief in who He is and what He did for us.

This topic can become complicated and the fact is that no one really knows for sure. I prefer to believe that animals will have the opportunity to live on, and that they will go to Heaven; that we will one day see our beloved pets again and live with them for all eternity. This is very important to me because of the great love I have for my pets, of which I have several. I choose to believe that my animals have a soul and a spirit, and pray I will see them again one day.

The research appears to only bring about greater speculation, as no one can be certain, it would seem.

-*-  -*-  -*- 

Question: “Do pets / animals go to Heaven? Do pets / animals have souls?”

Answer: The Bible does not give any explicit teaching on whether pets/animals have “souls” or whether pets/animals will be in heaven. However, we can use general biblical principles to develop some clarity on the subject. The Bible states that both man (Genesis 2:7) and animals (Genesis 1:30; 6:17; 7:15, 22) have the breath of life. The primary difference between human beings and animals is that humanity is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), while animals are not. Being made in the image and likeness of God means that human beings are like God, capable of spirituality, with mind, emotion, and will, and they have a part of their being that continues after death. If pets/animals do have a “soul” or immaterial aspect, it must therefore be of a different and lesser “quality.” This difference possibly means that pet/animal “souls” do not continue in existence after death.

Another factor to consider is that animals are a part of God’s creative process in Genesis. God created the animals and said they were good (Genesis 1:25). Therefore, there is no reason why there could not be animals on the new earth (Revelation 21:1). There will most definitely be animals during the millennial kingdom (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). It is impossible to say definitively whether some of these animals might be the pets we had while here on earth. We do know that God is just and that when we get to heaven we will find ourselves in complete agreement with His decision on this issue, whatever it may be.


English: Animals

But does animal intelligence constitute a soul? Does a pet’s emotions and ability to relate to human beings mean that animals possess an immortal spirit that will survive after death?

Theologians say no. They point out that man was created superior to animals and that animals can’t be equal with him.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26, NIV)

Most interpreters of the Bible assume that man’s likeness to God and animals’ subservience to man implies that animals may have the “breath of life,” nephesh in Hebrew, but not an immortal soul in the same sense as man’s.

Even so, the prophet Isaiah says God will include animals in the new heavens and new earth:

“The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 65: 25, NIV)

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the Apostle John’s vision of heaven also included animals, showing Christ and the armies of heaven “riding on white horses.” (Revelation 19:14, NIV)

Most of us can’t picture a paradise of unspeakable beauty without flowers, trees, and animals. Would it be heaven for an avid birdwatcher if there are no birds? Would a fisherman want to spend eternity with no fish? And would it be heaven for a cowboy without horses?

While theologians may be stubborn in classifying animals’ “souls” as inferior to those of humans, those learned scholars must admit that descriptions of heaven in the Bible are sketchy at best. The Bible does not give a definitive answer on the question of whether we will see our pets in heaven, but it does say, “… with God, all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, NIV)


Question: Do animals have a soul?

    Answer: As a rule, the complete question involves concern about animals, especially pets, being in heaven.

 The original creation.When we visit the original creation, we discover a number of truths. One apparent truth is the uniqueness of man compared to the lower animal creation. Only to man was it said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” (Gen. 1: 26). Animals are next mentioned in the verse, but from the standpoint of their subservience to man.

English: Depiction of a soul being carried to ...

The fate of man and animals. The wise man had much to say regarding man, his birth, life, and destiny. He wrote, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12: 7). Earlier, he wrote regarding man and the beast: “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Eccl. 3: 21.) This question is clearly answered in the above noted chapter twelve, verse seven.

    Animals have a soul in the sense that they possess life.A common Hebrew word translated life (soul) is nephesh. Nephesh is used for the life or breath of both animals and man (Gen. 1: 20, 30; 19: 17). Life is that state that is the opposite of death. It is a state of animation, breathing, and awareness. Men and animals alike possess a soul in the sense of breath (nephesh). However, in the sense of possessing a part or element that lives forever, as man possesses, animals do not possess an eternal spirit (cp. Matt. 25: 46). The animal simply and totally returns to the dust, the spirit of man continues to exist (Eccl. 3: 21, cp. 12: 7).


 The fact that animals do not possess an eternal soul in the sense that man does, does not de-emphasize their value as companions to man. Pets can and do become an important part in the lives of millions. Also, in man’s charge over the animal kingdom, it behooves man to protect and not abuse the animals (Gen. 1: 26-28).


And one more in depth reading with a variety of opinion upon it, many stating that yes, animals do have souls.



  1. Excellent. Maybe it is because I love animals, sometimes more than people! I hope to see my long gone pets of the past in Heaven. Our dear cat, Maxi who actually is our daughter’s has become my baby since she is in college. No one can tell me pets don’t have feelings or don’t understand us. They can ask my cat.

  2. great topic (~_~) I have o agree that animals wll be in heaven and earth is a stepping stone to what heaven is, like a process to muddle through to a higher form of living, and animals will be there, just as it is said that animals probably will be found on other planets before intelligent life will. that is only my thoughtsbut I liked the topic.

  3. I find Mark 5:1-13 an interesting example regarding the spiritual welfare of animals. Jesus casts the legion of demons that possessed a man in to a herd of pigs. I think this suggests a spiritual capacity of some sort. Whatever speculation we may engage regarding the soul of beasts, we can conclude that they are not subject to the covenant that we, in the likeness of God, are.

    Great post!

  4. Wonderfully written! Heartfelt convincing. That sound you hear is a “standing ovation.”

  5. “The research appears to only bring about greater speculation, as no one can be certain, it would seem.”

    By “research”, you are not, presumably, referring to scientific research, which indicates fairly conclusively that there is no such thing as a soul or spirit, either in humans or other animals!

  6. Hi Kpharri, I hope your Christmas season has been enjoyable so far; mine has been exceedingly busy so I’m kind of behind on comments, etc.

    Had to hop in here though before I run out of the house again and share that while we wouldn’t go to a theologian to ask about the earth’s atmosphere, why would we go to a scientist to ask about the “soul?” This is a “spiritual” matter.

    I don’t think I have a lot of respect for the scientist in matters of the soul/spirit. I wouldn’t use scientific-style research to discover anything about the soul because I believe this is a supernatural/spiritual entity, not something that a scientist can test, experiment with, or even analyze.

    There are some things where science is simply out of its element, or “inappropriate.” This is one of them, imo. 😉

    Thank you for your intriguing commentary because I love being challenged so please don’t stop.

  7. Warrioress

    My Christmas season is going well so far, thank you – some family coming at the end of the week, which should be a blast.

    I’m not sure science has to be completely mute on the issue of souls.

    Here are three different conclusions that basic critical thinking, including science proper, lead us to:

    1. Consider the supposition that the soul imbues us with certain aspects of our personality. So, for example, some Christians might claim that the soul is responsible for our emotions, moral instincts, etc.

    Yet there are many sources of scientific evidence that these things are produced by the brain, not by a soul. A good place to look is at people unfortunate enough to have had brain injuries. Depending on what part of the brain is injured, a person may lose just about any aspect of his personality, including moral instincts, emotional balance, and general disposition.

    The most famous example (but one of many) is of Phineas Gage, a railroad worker who suffered an horrendous accident in which part of his frontal lobe was destroyed. His change in personality was so profound that his friends no longer considered him to be the same person. Why would that happen if the soul, which is impervious to injury, were responsible for personality?

    These examples show definitively that the brain is required to produce various aspects of our personality.

    Furthermore, neuroscientists have identified which parts of the brain are active when people are thinking about certain things, or when they experience certain emotions, etc. This seems to indicate that all the basic characteristics of human personality can be explained by brain function.

    2. The idea of the soul is exactly what we’d expect in ancient cultures like those of the Biblical authors. It is very unlikely that these folks had any idea how important that boring-looking lump of grey tissue in people’s heads actually was, or that it was the most complex object ever observed in the universe (it is)!

    People therefore had to come up with other explanations for human behavior. Instead of mental illnesses and epileptic fits, it was demons and spirits. Instead of consciousness produced by brain function, it was a “soul” that inhabited the body.

    3. Finally, there is the issue of whether the Bible (or any other sacred text) is actually a valid source of knowledge. I realize this is opening a whole new can of worms, so I won’t go into it – this post is already long enough 🙂

  8. We feel exactly the same. EXACTLY. lol.. I too care for my animals more than many people I know. I don’t see how they couldn’t have a soul/spirit. Thanks for commenting!

  9. I sure hope you’re right, Zen. Thanks for the comment!

  10. I always hated that story in the bible. Pigs are quite intelligent, gentle creatures and I don’t like the idea of them going over the cliff. I’m not sure what to think about the story; how interesting that you brought it up. Thank you for the comment, Mark.

  11. (hugs) LeRoy, thank you..

  12. There are animals in heaven. Jesus in the book of Revelation is writing on a white horse for example. If this earth has all the beauty of nature and awesome animal life, why would there be none in heaven? God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. He created them and He will take care of them. I think we will all see more beauty and life than we could ever imagine when He re-creates the new heaven and earth to it’s original state before the fall. There is book called, “Heaven is for real.” by Todd Burpo. It’s about his son that spend time with Jesus. Interesting read and it encouraged many people.

  13. I understand that science would prefer to defer to the idea of the brain being behind *who we are.* I believe it is responsible for a great deal of how we are made up, in terms of our personalities, but there is that spiritual aspect or supernatural part of us that science cannot disprove.

    This is the eternal aspect of us that exists despite death of the brain. Countless people tell us about what occurs after death when they discuss near death experiences, after having died for hours and being declared legally dead. The brain is dead but these individuals somehow are not. Something else is living on. I believe it’s our spirit/soul.

    And yes, I understand that you don’t view the bible as a valid, scientific source, but it is a spiritual one 😉 I don’t mind long responses either, btw, Kpharri. Thanks, and I’m sorry it took a bit to respond to this one; I appreciate your comments a lot.

  14. Thanks for your comment, Freddy. I would like to read that book by Todd Burpo. I do hope you’re right about the animals, and that we will see our beloved pets again. The new Heaven and new Earth is going to be something else, I have no doubt. (hugs)

  15. Just a quick word on near death experiences: these are actually quite well understood by science. Many of the typical effects (such as the appearance of a white light at the end of a tunnel) are due to a lack of oxygen.

    When someone is declared dead and they later revive, the plain truth of the matter is that the doctors were simply mistaken in their diagnosis. It’s actually quite difficult to detect death in some patients, strange as it sounds!

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