Book of the Month
~by Michele Gregoire
September Recommended Read & Review: Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates: A Book of Hope for Those Who Have Lost a Pet, by Gary Kurz
Baptist minister and retired Coast Guard officer Gary Kurz wrote his book on the topic of animals in heaven nearly twenty years ago, although it has been reprinted in 2002 and 2008. Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates provides an apologetic account undertaken by the author, based on his study of scripture that supports his belief that animals share the same afterlife in heaven to which we all aspire. I was particularly pleased to know that Kurz is a Baptist clergyman because that is one of the denominations from which I least expected to find a supporter of animals in heaven. But, the author has done a well-researched and reassuring presentation in support of his thesis, and that makes this book worthwhile recommended reading for Catholic Stewards of Creation.
Kurz writes in an informal, conversational style, as though he were talking, somewhat like a sermon might unfold. It is easy and uncomplicated to read, even when he delves into some of the scriptural passages and their interpretation. However, there is a fair amount of repetition which presumably serves the purpose of reinforcing his commentary, and may also indicate that the manuscript could have been composed of several separate speeches or sermons written at different times, then edited into the book. While it doesn’t hurt to state one’s points more than once, if only for emphasis, a little less of it would tighten this work a bit. The book is comprised of several sections: Forward, Introduction, eight chapters, Stories of Humor, and Daily Devotionals.
In his Forward, the author states that suddenly in the 21st century there is “an avalanche of interest in whether animals have souls, in particular whether there is a providential plan for them beyond earthly existence.” He proceeds to inform the reader that there is no shortage of published material on this topic, from all possible perspectives including those that “disallow the possibility that animals are eternal creatures.” He rebuts this argument and offers reasons why it is flawed. Moving into the Introduction Kurz comforts readers who have lost beloved pets and puts forth supportive scriptural passages that will be given elaboration throughout the body of the book’s eight chapters and final devotionals.
The Table of Contents provides the title and a very brief synopsis of the topic for each chapter. In the first chapter the author describes how he researched the topic, how his faith fits into his findings, and conclusions. The second chapter provides views of how life began in which he discusses creation and creatures, as well as evolution (which he does a commendable job of explaining). Next, he delves into animal communication in chapter three followed by levels of life and awareness in chapter four. Chapter five is about the millennium, the thousand year period where animals will live as they were intended to, and the following chapter identifies and analyzes all scripture the author found pertinent to animal afterlife. Finally, the last two chapters address common questions about pet loss and pet afterlife and provide a short recap and review of the ideas presented in the book. In the last two sections Kurz presents some amusing stories of personal animal experiences and ends with a thirty day devotional for someone who has lost a pet, meant to help one move through the grief process.
The author cites, in more than one place, Revelation 5:13: “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them heard I saying, blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb for ever and ever.” In chapter five he follows this verse with his elaboration. “What more proof do we need? God, who cannot lie and who does not make mistakes, records that every creature was heard to praise him.” Kurz further states that ‘every’ is an inclusive term that means ‘all,’ and therefore that’s what John (the writer used by God to pen the book of Revelation) was referring to – all creatures. The author continues to explain and interpret each phrase in the verse and finally concludes that “in God’s entire revelation to mankind, from beginning to end, He emphasizes the importance of animals, not to us, but to Him! Knowing that God is the only constant in our universe, given that He declares himself immutable, how can anyone be so presumptuous as to think God would change His mind about His animals?”
Following in chapter six (titled Examination of Scripture) Kurz shares numerous verses and expounds upon them. He includes a sampling of several from Genesis, many Psalms, the previously quoted verse from Revelation, and some from Job, Numbers, Isaiah, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Joel, Mark, and Romans. This was a very enlightening chapter and truly uplifting to read because so much of the scriptural support for what we Catholic Stewards of Creation believe is presented there. And that is only from the Protestant Bible, which lacks seven Old Testament books that may well have additional verses addressing animals.
On the whole this is an uplifting book with plenty of scriptural references and interpretations that are consistent with our Catholic writers’ texts on the topic. There is one exception, though. Because the author is a Baptist he does not include anything about the saints; rather, he sticks strictly to the Bible for his content. Of course, that is the source and should be the focus. And, he mentions more than once that animals do not need saving, a premise with which I think we would all agree, so they do not need the gospel. We are the ones who need salvation and therefore the gospel is intended only for human beings. That is a reasonable conclusion, but also brings to mind how St. Francis preached to the birds and then chided himself for not having done so much sooner in his life. (I think St. Francis was simply sharing his overwhelming love for the Lord with all his fellow creatures when he ‘preached’ to them.) In conclusion, Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates is well worth the time to read; the author brings us closer together as Christians around a centrally important and personally significant subject regardless of our different traditions. For that, I am grateful to Gary Kurz.
Dr. Michele Gregoire has been Chair of the Education Department at Flagler College since 2004 and a member of the faculty since 1988. She came to Flagler College from Georgia College in Milledgeville where she had been Director of Music Therapy for four years and prior to that she spent one year in the same capacity at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Dr. Gregoire earned her bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy at Florida State University, her master’s degree in Music at California State University at Long Beach, and her doctoral degree in Special Education at the University of Florida. She has conducted research and published articles related to music therapy and special music education, consistently maintains a strong record of professional conference presentations, and her current interests are historical research in music education, special education, and music therapy.
Dr. Gregoire has been involved in several professional organizations throughout her career, and has served in leadership capacities in most of them. She worked for ten years as a clinical music therapist and director of internship, specializing in developmental disabilities, at the beginning of her career and continues to provide consultation in both music therapy and special education to individuals and organizations.
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