Fido in Heaven?
October 1993By John Warwick Montgomery
The Rev. John Warwick Montgomery, a Lutheran, is a practicing barrister and Professor of Law and Humanities at the University of Luton in England. He divides his time between London and Strasbourg.
Readers of this column will perhaps recall that exactly a year ago I followed the tortuous path of influential German priest and psychotherapist Eugen Drewermann's theological meanderings ("Eugen Drewermann's Trivialization of Theology," Oct. 1992). The present column demonstrates that I am capable of firing the other barrel of the shotgun at the same target, given sufficient incentive.
The incentive? The recent publication, in French translation, by the distinguished house of Les Editions du Cerf, Paris, of Drewermann's essay arguing for the immortality of animals. Although only some 37 pages long (but made into a respectable paperback by the addition of a long preface by novelist Luise Rinser and an equally long theological postface), the essay offers valuable insight into how modernist theologians jettison any serious belief in special revelation and set themselves up as arbiters of truth.
Drewermann commences with a broadside against the traditional biblical and theological view of animals, which, he says, regards man as "infinitely distinct from other creatures and in a privileged position over against all other living beings." According to Drewermann, at least three considerations militate against retaining such a position: (1) Environmentalism today focuses upon population and birth control. But the traditional Christian position must seek maximum human births, since only humans are fit for eternity. This means irresponsible reproduction among Christians and a lack of concern for the problems and suffering of animals. (2) The worsening global economy pushes us to use animals as means to our ends (forced feeding, industrial breeding, experimentation, etc.), and the Christian will justify all this by the idea that animals exist only to serve human ends. (3) Scientific evolution has permanently destroyed the notion that man is a unique creation of God. Christianity cannot honestly look into either the microscope or the telescope; what they reveal leads to "the complete refutation of Christian anthropocentrism." Moreover, why do we assume that evolution has ceased with man as the supposed pinnacle of creation? Better the view of Konrad Lorenz: "The missing link between ape and the true human being is ourselves." Instead of justifying our uniqueness and immortality by virtue of Christ's incarnation and resurrection as one of us, we should consider the representation of Vishnu, the second person of the Hindu trinity, who never ceases to return to earth, at each stage of life's development, to be manifested in ever new forms.
But what justifies Drewermann's belief in the immortality of animals? First, he offers a philosophical argument. Kant, it will be remembered, reasoned that even though there could be no formal proof of eternity or the human soul, they had to be presupposed as a foundation for morals. But animals also exhort us to justice, moderation, and ethical values. Ergo, we should presuppose their immortality.
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