On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals

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Many of us keep pet animals; we rely on them for companionship and unconditional love. For some people their closest relationships may be with their pets. In the wake of the animal rights movement, some ethicists have started to re-examine this relationship, and to question the rights of humans to "own" other sentient beings in this way.

In this engaging and thought-provoking book, Stephen Webb brings a Christian perspective to bear on the subject of our responsibility to animals, looked at through the lens of our relations with pets--especially dogs. Webb argues that the emotional bond with companion animals should play a central role in the way we think about animals in general, and--against the more extreme animal liberationists--defends the intermingling of the human and animal worlds. He tries to imagine what it would be like to treat animals as a gift from God, and indeed argues that not only are animals a gift for us, but they give to us; we need to attend to their giving and return their gifts appropriately. Throughout the book he insists that what Christians call grace is present in our relations with animals just as it is with other humans. Grace is the inclusive and expansive power of God's love to create and sustain relationships of real mutuality and reciprocity, and Webb unfolds the implications of the recognition that animals too participate in God's abundant grace.
Webb's thesis affirms and persuasively defends many of the things that pet lovers feel instinctively--that their relationships with their companion animals are meaningful and important, and that their pets have value and worth in themselves in the eyes of God. His book will appeal to a broad audience of thoughtful Christians and animal lovers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Thoughtful and reflective writing on our relationship with the animal world can be hard to come by, particularly among those writing from a specifically Christian perspective....Stephen Webb's latest book is therefore a welcome contribution. It recognizes the theological differences between human beings and other animals, yet without reducing the relationship to a purely instrumental one....Webb has written the best book we have on the subject."--Modern Theology

"Webb...makes an excellent contribution to the growing theological and philosophical debate concerning the relationship between humans and animals....I strongly recommend Webb's book to anyone who cares about the theological and ethical issues surrounding the human-animal relationship and to those interested in environmental studies in general."--Seminary Studies

"Webb has provided a valuable source of information concerning contemporary views on human-animal relations....As important as any aspect of the book is his account of the adventure as well as the intellectual and spiritual gains that come to us not only through what we give to animals but also through recognition of and gratitude for what they give to us....Highly recommended."--Choice

"The study is significant and original because it considers issues that have often been brushed aside....Webb's book does provide an important starting point for further discussion of the theological meaning of pet relationships, and the implications of those relationships for the way we treat all animals and live in the world."--Anglican Theological Review

"A deeply theological book, which is beautifully written and ponders the literary accounts of animals with great sensitivity... Few theologians could have endowed their daily lives, and the relationships that fill them, with such theological skill." Crucible

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195152296
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen H. Webb is Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Wabash College. He is the author of The Gifting God: A Trinitarian Ethics of Excess (OUP 1996).

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Voyage to the Animal World
Introduction: Pet Theories 3
I Surveying the Options
1 God and the Giving of Animals 17
2 Ecology versus the Peaceable Kingdom 44
II Thinking about Pets
3 What Are Dogs For? 69
4 The Difference That Dogs Make 85
III A Theology for the Dogs
5 Theology and Dogtalk 109
6 The Sacrificial Economy of Christian Theology 128
7 Jesus Christ and the Future of Animals 155
Epilogue: God's Nature as the Future of the World 181
Notes 185
Bibliography 205
Index 219
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