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Franciscan, other author explore place of animals in Christianity
By
Trista Turley
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Sunday, June 21, 2009
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WASHINGTON (CNS)—Two new books by Christian authors Father Jack Wintz and Leila Harris explore the place of animals in Christianity.
 
In his book Will I See My Dog in Heaven?, Father Wintz, a Franciscan friar, explores whether or not God's plan for salvation includes creatures other than humans.
 
Harris' All of the Animals in the Bible is a topical index of all animals that appear in Scripture.
 
The question in the title of his book "sounds like a naive kid's question," Father Wintz said in an interview with Catholic News Service June 13, "but I think it fits in this broader context (of the question of salvation for all creation.)"
 
Father Wintz said his motivation to write the book stemmed largely from his experience as a Franciscan. "I have a great fascination for St. Francis of Assisi, especially his great love and respect for animals as well as for trees, rivers, wild flowers and creation as a whole," he stated.
 
Throughout the book's 10 chapters, Father Wintz utilizes evidence from Scripture, the works of St. Francis of Assisi and Judeo-Christian tradition to make the case that God intends to save all of creation, including beloved pets.
 
The evidence includes some familiar stories such as that of Noah, as well as less familiar works like St. Francis' "Canticle of Brother Sun," a song of praise in which St. Francis refers to all of creation as brothers and sisters of man.
 
While Father Wintz believes that there is strong evidence to indicate that all of creation is included in God's plan for salvation, he acknowledges that Christians are divided on the issue. "It's true that we know little detail about (heaven) or how animals and other creatures will be included in the picture," he stated.
 
While Will I See My Dog in Heaven? includes a substantial amount of theological analysis, Father Wintz said the book also includes several stories and is "for a wide, popular audience."
 
"A lot of (the theology) is very simple," said the priest, who was in Washington for a book signing at the Franciscan monastery.
 
Father Wintz is a longtime writer and editor for St. Anthony Messenger magazine, based in Cincinnati. Will I See My Dog in Heaven? was published by Paraclete Press.
 
Harris' book provides the original Greek or Hebrew term and the English translation for each animal, followed by a synopsis and analysis of their natural and symbolic roles in the Bible. A knowledge quiz also is included to keep readers entertained.
 
Harris told CNS in a June 11 telephone interview that the comfort she found in God's symbolic use of animals in Scripture inspired her to write the book. A self-described animal lover, she believes her work on the book reinforced her love for animals.
 
Harris said that there is a wealth of scriptural evidence to demonstrate that God, too, cares about animals. "(God) created animals before he created humans," she said, adding that "man's first job was to name and take care of animals."
 
Like Father Wintz, Harris said she believes there will be animals in heaven. "(There are) animals in the Book of Revelations—the beasts around the throne of God," she noted.
 
However, Harris also stated that, because Jesus died exclusively for the souls of men, she cannot be sure that specific, individual animals from our lives on earth will be present in the afterlife.
 
Harris believes her book will appeal largely to Christians who enjoy studying the Bible. She also hopes that the book can help introduce other animal lovers to Christ. "(I want) to bring Christians closer to the Lord," she said.
 
All of the Animals in the Bible is the first in a series of books by Harris, who holds a degree in religious studies from Regent University. Her second book, All of the Trees in the Bible, is scheduled for release later in June. Both books are published through Advantage Books.
 
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Editor's Note: Will I See My Dog in Heaven can be purchased for $14.99 at www.paracletepress.com. All of the Animals in the Bible can be purchased in hardcover for $41 or in paperback for $25 at www.advbooks.com or www.leilaharris.com.


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