Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Or New York City

But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. -- Luke 16:25

In the folded and tortured land of Appalachia, there exists a group of people known as Primitive Baptist Universalists.  The adherents are few in number, perhaps less than 2000, and geographically isolated.  I thought Ralph Stanley was your basic Primitive Baptist, but Wikipedia lists him as a well-known Primitive Baptist Universalist.  The interesting thing about the PBU to me is that they are derisively called ‘No-Hellers’.  Yet they do not deny that hell exists.  Their doctrine holds, rather, that hell is confined to this life. 

I can see where that makes sense to people living a hard life under harsh conditions.  The transition that comes through death would be seen as a release from what amounts to purgatory.  Here we are tested and tried and suffer to make us fit for heaven. 

As I write that, I’m having trouble seeing where I disagree.  I often say something like that, because, at times, this world is so wicked and perverse, I don't see how it could not be hell's extension center, at the very least.  It is not until you have to deal with people who have an easier life, who do not appear to suffer despite the evil that they do, that holes begin to develop.  To those who go to heaven, this earthly sojourn will appear as a period of learning, development, and correction.  If you are a Universalist, I guess that’s the end of the story.  If, like me, you are sympathetic to Universalism and have a Universalist hero like George MacDonald, yet remain uncomfortable with the idea, what do you do with all the idiots who don’t ever learn a thing? 

George Carlin once asked, if we are here to help others, what are the others here for?  We could ask similarly, if suffering purges and cleanses us, what of those who do not suffer?  MacDonald would probably have said that those who cling to their illusions and love this life too much will go through something like a second death where they are freed from their delusions and the grip of self in pain and anguish.  You can see where reincarnation had a logical appeal for those of a Transcendentalist, Universalist bent. 

There is coming a judgment, as Revelation 20:12-15 describes:  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  Those whose names are not found in the Book of Life suffer a “second death”, being cast into “the lake of fire.”   

The road we take is a part of our destination.  We may take detours and scenic routes, but eventually our path must lead to an end, and the end determine the path.  The life we live is our path, and when we get where we are going, it will have been, in that sense, heaven all along or hell everyday. 

In the end, these sorts of things leave me baffled.  I can sense the truth being present, but I cannot get at it, like trying to grasp a stream of water in my hand.  The weak are as successful as the strong. 

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

If heaven ain't a lot like Dixie, 
I don't want to go.
If heaven ain't a lot like Dixie, 
I'd just as soon stay home.
If they ain't got a Grand Ol' Opry,
Like they do in Tennessee,
Just send me to hell, 
Or New York City,
It'll be about the same to me.


John Lien said...

You had me going there. I figured you were going to mention something about the PBU akin to snake handling and poison drinking. That's kind of a, what's the word, nuanced, belief.

I am losing the temptation, when reading about such ideas to form an instant opinion on them. These days, I hear the idea, let is soak in maybe see if it fits in the jigsaw puzzle of my understanding of the Truth. Often it is a time-delayed aha!

Not sure if this is good doctrine but your post reminded me of this. Ugh! the 70s!

mushroom said...

I really admire a man like Father Stephen who not only knows his doctrine but is able to present it forthrightly with great conviction. And when you are a pastor as he is, you have to be extra careful that you keep everybody in the bus. It's dangerous out there for sheep without a shepherd. Most people just want to be part of the flock and stick with everybody else. If that's the way someone wants to think then forming an instant opinion based on the "accepted" doctrine is the way to go.

We may get in a little trouble being a little more open, but I don't think it hurts too much. We know where we can find a flock if we need to.

I had forgotten all about "Godspell". A little girl I used to hang around loved it and had the cast album or whatever they call it. It might have soaked into my subconscious.

julie said...

George Carlin once asked, if we are here to help others, what are the others here for?

The problem with his question is, it presumes there are people who are help, but never tasked to help, and vice versa.

Sometimes, we give, and that is a blessing. Sometimes we receive, and that, too, is a blessing.

Also, what John said.

mushroom said...

Yes, that's true. Carlin was a clever and occasionally amusing guy. He was also proof -- as are so many today, that cleverness does not equate to clear thinking.

I do sneak over to Cracked 'cause sometimes I just need a cheap laugh.