Hell is an F; Earth is a D
I have continued reading The Name of the Rose, and it keeps disturbing me.
The book is fiction, and the author is no longer a believer. I realize those things. But he’s a medievalist, and he was a Catholic in his youth. Unlike Dan Brown’s clumsy claptrap, Eco’s book has a good historical basis. I think its depiction of the church is not too far off.
In the book, the monks walk on eggs around each other. They talk about inquisitors and heretics. They criticize this one and praise that one. But they continually insert disclaimers to avert disaster. They know that one slip of the tongue could mean prison, torture, and even a visit to the stake.
I got two messages from this. 1) Satan has always owned the church, apart from little periods when the sun popped through the clouds, and 2) there have been many periods during which Christians lived in utter terror…of each other.
Imagine yourself living in the Dark Ages in Europe. You could do business. You could get an education. You could marry and raise kids. You could write fiction. You could write secular nonfiction. You could carry on most of the normal functions of life in relative security. The one thing that could land you on a heap of burning faggots was speaking your mind about God. And what more-important thing is there, about which a person can talk?
It’s appalling to see these imaginary, but realistic, characters scurrying in conversational shadows, like frightened rats. The liars speak loudly and publicly. They don’t threaten the status quo, so they have nothing to fear. The honest men use code words. They use gestures where words are too dangerous. They stifle each other in order to protect each other from suspicion.
It’s like working at MSNBC.
We are living in the Dark Ages. The earth is much more like hell than heaven. Satan does, in fact, rule the earth, even though he lost the title at the crucifixion. On the cross, Jesus wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but we have not enforced it. We have not chosen to be citizens, and we haven’t claimed our rights and done what is necessary to enjoy them.
The darkness of the age is more obvious when you look to medieval times (or when you look outside of Christendom), but it’s there.
Look how screwed up the world is. Animals eat each other. Weeds grow more easily and abundantly than crops. Diseases not only exist, but adapt to defeat medicine. Most marriages are not good. Most governments are very corrupt. Prisons are full of innocent people. Natural disasters kill us and rob us. This is not a blessed planet. The Adamic curse is alive and well. This is not what blessed life looks like. We’re used to it, so we think of it as normal and acceptable. But it’s not. Things could be better, if we were doing our job.
The church is a complete mess. The other day on Facebook and Twitter, I used the word “whorehouses” to describe the money-obsessed charismatic churches. As for the mainstream churches, their hopelessness is to obvious to even discuss. At least the charismatics know the Holy Spirit. They ignore him, much as Catholics ignore the Pope, but they know him.
We were supposed to maintain this place, using God’s power and teaching. It’s not working. Every time God chooses a people, they drop the ball. This is why God now works through individuals. He made his point about institutions and nations in earlier ages. Now he’s showing us we can still screw up when he comes and lives inside of us.
Last night I took another look at Mary K. Baxter’s book about hell. I’m still not convinced she’s for real, but in the book, Jesus tells her something that makes complete sense to me. He says MOST people go to hell. They are kept there in suffering, and at the appointed time, hell will be thrown in the lake of fire, presumably putting an end to everyone who lives there.
MOST people. That’s astounding. But who can doubt it?
I believe God arranged the body to teach us about his nature. I believe that, to God, people are like sperm cells or ova. A typical man creates something like 300 million sperm cells every day. Over a lifetime, he’s doing good if he manages to make use of ten of them. The rest die and vanish, as do unfertilized eggs. Human beings who reject God end up the same way. They die unfertilized.
I do not believe life on earth will be perfect, even in the Messianic Age. Human idiocy has no limits, so no matter what God does, as long as he doesn’t free us from the inclination to do evil, we will have some problems. But I believe God can bless the lives of individuals, and it’s possible for him to have great power in certain limited geographical areas. A house may be blessed. A city. A nation. And I think the upcoming generation of Spirit-empowered believers may prove this in Israel and possibly the US. Their success may bring about the final wave of authoritarianism and violent persecution that precedes the Tribulation and the arrival of Jesus. They will scare Satan into making a final push.
If I had to make a recommendation, it would be: “Don’t settle.” Keep pushing, in prayer and good works. Don’t assume things are as good as they can be. Don’t settle for a B- world when an A may be within reach. You don’t know what God is willing to do. You have never seen a blessed world, so you have no frame of reference. Make things as good as they can be, within you and around you, and don’t be overly unhappy about the way things go for people who won’t listen. Like the poor, they will always be with you. In fact, when Jesus said the poor would always be with us, he was probably referring to the spiritually poor, more than the financially poor. In this age, we will always be surrounded by people who are going to hell and who will not be with us in eternity.
Honest criticism is the beginning of recovery. If we insist on saying we’re doing fine, and that the world is not so bad, we can expect to stagnate and to continue to fail and lose.
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