Why We Need Hell

[Beliefnet: March 23, 2006] Hell has never been a fashionable destination, but it in recent years it's met a fate that even the most passé hotspots don't endure; people suspect it doesn't exist. Or, if it does exist, it attracts no customers; “we are permitted to hope that hell is empty” is how this is sometimes phrased. Even the most conservative Christians have a hard time putting a positive spin on a wrathful God who flings evildoers into flaming torment.

Loving the Storm-Drenched

[Christianity Today, March 2006]Selected for Best American Spiritual Writing, 2007 If you hang around with Christians, you find that the same topic keeps coming up in conversation: their worries about “the culture.” Christians talk about sex and violence in popular entertainment. They talk about bias in news reporting. They talk about how their views are ignored or misrepresented. “The culture” appears to be an aggressive challenge to “the church,” and Christians keep worrying over what to do about it.

CS Lewis, the Reluctant Convert

[Beliefnet, November 29, 2005] In later life, C. S. Lewis – “Jack” to friends and family – would say that it all began with a toy garden. He was seven years old when his older brother, “Warnie”, brought to their playroom a biscuit tin he had decorated with tiny twigs, moss and flowers. As Jack gazed at the miniature fairyland

More than a Feeling

[Beliefnet, September 17, 2004] Last night found me yelling at the television once again over a panel discussion about “science and religion.” Both sides thought that rational processes can only take us so far in the journey to faith (agreed). After that, people turn to some other resource in order to connect with God (so far so good). What they use is their emotions. Around my house, that’s when the sputtering starts. Only in the realm of religion is it assumed that every experience is a subjective experience, which means it’s an emotional projection—which means: Look, dear, a lunatic.

What Heresy?

[Beliefnet, July 16, 2003] I can't be the only Christian reading “Beyond Belief,” Elaine Pagels' celebration of Gnostic theology and texts, and thinking, “What's so heretical about this?” This best-selling book, and its accompanying train of reviews and author profiles, presents a familiar cast of characters. The Gnostics, developers of a variety of Christ-flavored spiritualities in the earliest centuries of the Christian era, are enthroned as noble seekers of enlightenment.

How Can God Permit Suffering?

[Beliefnet, September 16, 2001] When it hits home, we reel back. Thoughts explode in confusion: I trusted God, where is he? If he’s all-powerful, why didn’t he stop it? Maybe he doesn’t love us. Maybe he is punishing us. Maybe he is weak. Are we really so alone and endangered? Can we not trust him? Are we so terrifyingly alone? Suffering on this scale is new to us. But it is not new to the weary human race, and countless men and women before us have tried to understand God’s presence in times of horror.

Marketing Narnia

[Beliefnet, June 20, 2001] Just hours after the New York Times hit doorsteps on the first Sunday of this month, my e‑mailbox began to fill with distraught messages. “Sit down before you read this, in case you start crying,” wrote one friend, and another muttered “Poor Lewis must be turning over in his grave.”

Monkey Can, Monkey Do?

[Beliefnet, May 29, 2001] It's got the head of a monkey and the body of a monkey. But not the same monkey. You probably don't want to hear any more details of this Mondo Bizarro medical news item. According to pioneering scientist Robert White, the mix-and-match creature he fabricated in a 1970's experiment survived for “many days.” This experiment raised hopes, he told the BBC in an interview last month, because “People are dying today who, if they had body transplants, ...would remain alive.”

Easter Changes Everything

[Beliefnet, April 14, 2001] It’s that time of year again, when school children are coloring pictures of Jesus hanging from a cross, and shop-owners fill their windows with gaily colored cutouts of the Flogging at the Pillar. In the malls everyone’s humming along with seasonal hits on the sound system, like “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” (did you hear the Chipmunks’ version?). Car dealers are promoting Great Big Empty-Tomb Size discounts on Toyotas. Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Easter. Who hasn’t been invited to an “In His Steps” party, where players move plastic pieces around a board emblazoned with a map of Jesus’ last suffering day in Jerusalem?

The Hidden Gospels

[Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2001] Imagine a convocation of New Testament scholars, circa 2100 AD, poring over a recently discovered cache of ancient scrolls. What a delightful, mystical figure Jesus cuts here! He’s hardly like the fire-and-brimstone version promoted in the establishment Gospels. Surely this is the *real* Jesus, the one suppressed for so long by a rigid hierarchy. Sad, isn’t it, that all previous generations of scholars were too hidebound and fundamentalist to perceive the truth. Like those folks in the Jesus Seminar, a hundred years ago.