Hell’s not worth it

Lot of heat about hell has happened over the last few months. I’ve found it hugely frustrating as an army of apologists and doctrinal experts take a firing position against so called heresy. It’s purposeless. People will believe what they wish to believe. A popular book doesn’t change belief. It mostly fires imagination and confirms or refutes already existing belief.

So in that vein I’m just going to outline where I am at the moment.

My imagination about hell is mostly around C.S Lewis’ various views about the subject. So in the Great Divorce hell is England on a bad day which will eventually be destroyed. Interestingly enough the wise character who explains everything in the book is George Macdonald who was allegedly a Christian Universalist. In the Last Battle hell exists only in the minds of dwarfs who cannot hear or see heaven or Aslan even though they are right next to him and sitting in Alsan’s new Narnia.

I don’t think I could venture any further than these images that C.S. Lewis gives.

And I don’t think we are meant to have any more clarity than that. I definitely DON’T believe in an eternal conscious torment. That would be God’s ultimate defeat for his creation. New earth, new heaven but same old hell. Or is it going to be a brand new hell? That shall exist along with the new earth and heaven?

I think the amount of time hell has taken up conversation isn’t worth it. First of all it barely features in the Old Testament (once in Daniel). So immediately that should make us a bit wary. If it’s not really in the Old Testament is it that important? All other features of the gospel that most Christians preach have definitive Old Testament/New Testament cross overs.

Even within the New Testament as a whole it is minimally dwelt upon. The New Testament talks far more about living the new life in Jesus, justice, money etc.

The whole of the bible’s focus is towards the new life. It’s emphasizes the beauty of the new creation that has already been begun in Jesus. That is where the focus lies. From the promise to Noah, to Abraham to Jacob, to Moses through to the great prophets it God’s awesome new world that’s the focus. Instead of this, huge amounts of evangelical Christendom focus on sexuality and hell.

Why can’t there be evangelism without hell? Isn’t the person of Jesus, beautiful, awe inspiring and fully enough to inspire evangelism?

Yet I won’t say that hell isn’t there or has no place. I have to respect what scripture has. And it has a lot of crazy stuff in it. Obviously I can’t fit it all in. Neither am I going to chuck it all out. But in terms of the amount of hot air, heated discussions and the heaping of coals on people’s heads, it’s not worth it.

Sky in the blood

It’s been a bad 10 days. Haven’t been able to work. Haven’t been able to do anything of any real worth. There was an internal implosion within me which made no sense. I was going along ok and the Boom! Everything just stopped. It’s been a difficult time with a family member of ours as well.

So this Sunday I didn’t want to go to church. I quite enjoy our church services. Not sure why but I’m just happy to be there. But this Sunday I didn’t want to be there. I gritted my teeth through the music and tried to listen to what was a very interesting sermon on our responsibility to the environment but just felt alien.

We went up to communion and after having the bread, the body of Christ, I reached out to take the cup from the server of the wine, the blood. As I looked into the cup I saw the sky.

Our church building has a large set of glass windows up behind the communion table. So when I looked in I saw the reflection of the sky. A fairly mundane observation. But at that moment it became very special. To see the open sky with its wise, gentle clouds, when looking down into the cup of red wine at that moment gave me hope.

The Spirit works like that. An ordinary set of physical phenomena is transformed into something special and wonderful for that instant.

Yes, I saw the sky in the blood.

Rapture Dumps

It’s been a difficult week.

I’ve often wished I wasn’t here.

Maybe that’s what the rapture is all about.

Not wanting to be in the here and now.

It is nicer to exist elsewhere.

Or so the lie goes.

Jesus does the crazy thing and jumps into the here and now.

Or he did a while back.

Now his Spirit jumps in and out of the here and now.

The here and now, boring and mundane, seemingly

is holy.

I hear babbling from the other room. Rapture or Pentecost?

Lent : Reflections on doing 40 pieces

The idea of doing this came in a conversation about struggling with prayer. My friend Drew (who is doing his doctrate)  said that his thesis was his prayer as of now. Having struggled with prayer for a few years I found it enormously profound and comforting. I didn’t have to spout or think meaningless words. I could do something more meaningful. So I thought I would try and do 40 pieces for Lent as a way praying.

So in some senses the compositions and putting them up was an act of prayer. Initially I had hoped that I would do the 40 pieces before Lent and put them up. However being as disorganised as I am that didn’t work. I must also add that I didn’t compose all 40 through each day of Lent. I’m sorry if I gave that impression.

Of the 40 pieces, 3 were old ideas (10, 16, 35) which I hadn’t put down in any form before. Twelve of them (2, 3, 4, 7, 15, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 40) were ideas that I worked on in the 3 weeks before Lent started. However when Lent started I felt quite ill for 4 days and later we had to go to Spring Harvest for 5 days. So most of the ‘normal’ days I was generating a piece from scratch. I was also doing an evening composition course in 20th century music during this time and piece 36 was one I did as an assignment for that and piece 30 was inspired from the course itself.

Lent is supposed to be for 40 days starting Ash Wednesday. However Sundays can be taken as a break. Other traditions go right through the Sundays end Lent before Palm Sunday where passion Week starts. So I was putting up six pieces a week.

I was reflecting on the desert and the wilderness through these pieces and put up short reflections to go along with them. Interestingly enough more people read the posts than listened to the music. This was a bit disappointing. I do feel that the written word holds too much sway over Christian spirituality. But then in many ways it’s easier to read about something than actually engage with the object itself. So I know that I like to read about God rather than engage with him. I love reading about scripture rather than read scripture itself. So a good lesson there.

The songs came through various means. Most of the time an idea came and as I developed it I would ask myself what is this piece saying in context of the desert. Occasionally I looked at a passage or had an intentional thought and wrote the piece accordingly.

Reason and Record really made the process of putting up the music much easier. And soundcloud was absolutely brilliant for putting up music. I haven’t even started scratching the surface of what is possible with soundcloud. Anyone in music should ditch their myspace page and get onto soundcloud!

Finishing the project was very difficult as I felt drier and drier. But I was quite pleased with the last piece. Quite a few people seemed to like it. I even got a mention in Maggi Dawn’s blog.

The first thought on finishing the 40th piece at 2 am on Easter Saturday was : ‘I wish the bloody neighbours would shut up!’ This and other holy thoughts provided their graceful companionship through this project.

So now the question is ‘now what?’ I’m not sure. Folks have suggested taking it to a publisher. Others have suggested putting images with it and making it like an exhibition. I love all those ideas but to be honest I’m a bit scared and a bit lazy.

I doubt I will do another Lent like this. It was very consuming. But I might do an Advent 😉