From Here to Eternity
By Rob Chase
There was once a man in torment in Hell. At a certain time he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around and saw his son. He asked, “What are you doing here son?” His son replied, “I followed you down here Dad.”
From a PEW Research Study in 2014, 72% of Americans believe in Heaven while 58% believe in Hell. I thought those stats might be even lower, since I believe we made the transition from a Christian Nation (based on most citizens being cultural Christians at least in 1776), to a Post Christian Nation 243 years later. This struck me when I attended the Drag Queen Story Hour at the City of Spokane South Hill Public Library a few weeks ago. I headed for the Library, and the policeman stationed there asked me what side of the street I should be on. I told him I had friends on both sides. He asked with Solomonic wisdom which side were most of my friends were on. I had to admit they were mostly on the “Christian” side of the street and he said, go ye hence, or words to that effect.
Admittedly, we were outnumbered at least 3 to 1. I wasn’t surprised. If one wanted to say the crowd could easily be divided along political lines it could have been said Politically Left or Right (I will resist any comparisons to sheep and goats). The Left is a lot more passionate in their causes, and thus have much better turnouts. However, I do not think having a greater plurality means much. But I was still struck that even ten years ago I don’t think this day in Spokane could have happened then. There was no bloodshed of course, but 50 years ago there could have been.
Other than some oddities in the crowd, most families on the other side were dressed up not much differently than the Brady Bunch Family TV series. I also think a lot of them may have been church goers to the Higher Denominations; like Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans.
I consider myself as a non-denominational Bible believing Christian, but I go to a Baptist Church. Most Baptists are still conservative. They and non-denominational Christians are considered the lower Church. But even the Higher Churches have split between Left and Right such as Evangelical and Missouri Synod Lutherans, United and Free Methodists. I was raised Catholic but they are split between official Roman Catholics, and the Pre-Vatican 2 Latin Rite Catholics, who are much more conservative.
As an altar boy in the early 60’s I used to pray in Latin even though I didn’t really understand what was said, but the Nuns taught us Catholic Dogma out of the Baltimore Catechism. The RC Church was always right. Around 1966 we ditched the Baltimore Catechism and Latin. We started learning about our faith via a French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In those days the RC Church went from Dark Age to New Age on a dime. The nuns looked confused and thus began a mass exodus from the Clergy. But when I was a little kid in the 50’s it seemed most Americans went to Church. It was something we did in this Nation. The same things are not true now.
If I say I am a Christian, then that means I must believe certain things, like the existence of Heaven and Hell. Looking at all sweet little children on both sides of the street by the Library I wondered where will they be now 100 years from now? If one is a Bible believer, what is the eternal destiny of those attending? Heaven will be wonderful because God is there, the eternal beatific vision. Hell will be awful because Satan is there, the miserific vision forever. If I interpret the Bible correctly, it all boils down to choice. C.S. Lewis said that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. He is right.
I read the Narnia Chronicles of C.S. Lewis and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Both men had been in the midst of the carnage of WW1 when so many things changed between 1914 – 1918. They both witnessed the rise of Hitler and the lights going out in Europe. Both of their works paralleled these advents and under the veneer of fantasy were Christian themes of good and evil.
I am thinking of two more recent works that have gripped the younger minds about us. The Harry Potter series, and Polar Express. Harry Potter was all about good and evil, but I couldn’t detect a Christian theme. Polar Express was all about Christmas, but no mention of Christ or Bethlehem.
Until the Presidential debates of 2012 the contenders for that office would try to affect some public form of Christianity in their lives. Although Romney was a Mormon I don’t think the subject came up that I could see in 2012.
If nothing else, people used to take Pascal’s Wager, knowingly or unknowingly. The philosopher Pascal said it was better to take the chance of being a Christian in case it was true, and thus live a good and healthy life, than to live worldly for a season and spend eternity in Hell. Hardly saving faith but a characteristic of God is mercy. God is Judge, not me.
People are a mixed bag, no one is perfectly good or perfectly evil, part devil – part angel. But there is a dividing line if we believe there are human residents in Heaven and Hell.
Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “If one is seeking God he has found Him already.” Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” And also, “He who seeks will find.” When I was young I was seeking but I didn’t find. The whole Christian thing rang true to me. I knew there had been an historical Jesus, but was He who He said He was? It was hard to grasp intellectually.
- S. Lewis was an atheist, but was led to Christianity by fellow Inkling Tolkien. In “Mere Christianity” he says, Jesus can only be Lord, liar, or lunatic. He reasons Jesus can only be who He said He was because He was not a liar or a lunatic.
I had a Pastor who once said, “The devil keeps 3 lists. Those who are already his, those Christians he doesn’t need to worry about, and those who are effective Christians that he is allowed to persecute.” If the devil understands Scripture, and knows he will lose in the end, what does he get out of it? He hates God and wants to take as many made in the Image of God as he can. Misery loves company. “Better King of Hell than servant in Heaven,” Milton has Lucifer saying.
As I said, I was seeking as a young man. My Church didn’t seem to have good answers for me. Many of the leaders seemed to be hypocrites. I wanted to see a miracle. Finally, one day I saw and believed. I do believe many people I like won’t make the right choice. I sorrow about that, and so does God.
Parents have a responsibility to teach and protect their children. Someday we will have to answer for that. Another thing that always rang true to me was that there has to be a Final Reckoning.
“There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12