As a fiction writer on the side (“on the side” of my apologetic and comparative religion studies which are “on the side” of my full-time day job – which means I barely ever get time to work on it), I once started work on a novella similar in theme and purpose to C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In fact, my short pitch for the story was that it was “a simultaneous tribute to and argument against C.S. Lewis.” Without digressing too heavily on the details of my own story, during the first revision pass I realized that my heaven was not heavenly enough and my hell was not hellish enough. Oddly enough, that’s precisely my main complaint about The Great Divorce. Before starting the rewrite in earnest, I wanted to do some research on different takes of heaven and hell from a Christian worldview. My goal was to give portrayals of both that were biblically accurate while giving, to the best of my ability, a clear sense of the thrill and wonder or horror of heaven or hell, respectively, and at the same time showing why the Christian doctrine of hell is more than just divinely authorized sadism. Among my planned reading were gems like Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, Dante’s Inferno, Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, and Hank Hanegraaff’s Afterlife. Also among them was a little book that I’d stumbled across on Amazon, My Hope in Hell by Jens Reuter. The book had very few reviews but a high average and was only $8. Why not, right?
I was expecting a defense of the doctrine of hell as a necessary means of satisfying God’s justice. Boy, was I wrong.
Rather than a defense of a particular interpretation, or a systematic examination of what the bible says about hell, I very quickly found that My Hope in Hell would be more accurately described as a structured version of a confused and emotionally loaded journal entry, the thoughts and summarized studies of someone wrestling with an aspect of his faith that he finds unacceptable.
Across the board, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity seems to be one of the most misunderstood concepts in all religious studies. Jews don’t understand it. Atheists don’t understand it. Mormons don’t understand it. Muslims don’t understand it. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t understand it. Even a lot of Christians don’t understand it and, when pressed, will appeal to analogies or models that are technically heretical.
It’s been called contradictory, polytheism, and paganism, yet the Church has understood the concept to be at the very heart of orthodoxy since the days of the apostles, even if they (the church) couldn’t articulate it or explain it.
Writer, artist, lay theologian, student of comparative religion.