Monthly Archives: May 2017

“Is the Theology of ‘The Shack’ Heretical?”

Most of my readers will be aware that I am a big fan of the book, ‘The Shack‘, by Wm. Paul Young. I strongly recommend that people read this book, because it is simply incredible.

Via a great and moving storyline (it is written as a story), the book proposes total freedom, a carefree relationship with God, and also a closeness with God that some believers do not seem to have. It is essentially an extended parable. But rather than learn from this, some believers actually would rather try to discredit the book (and the movie that has been made of the book), most of them without even reading it themselves and instead relying on hearsay to ‘know’ what the book is about.

The Shack has life-changing concepts in it. You can look at my previous articles on it by clicking the category ‘The Shack’ at the top of this piece. The book is, of course, not Scripture, but, in the same way as the Scriptures were written, that is, by ordinary people writing about their interactions with God and their ideas about God, so too The Shack is such a book. As are all of the millions of books that Christians all over the world read. Theology is not confined to the Bible, it is also contained in the billions of pages of wisdom (or otherwise!) written in these countless books from people like Billy Graham, Joseph Prince, Derek Flood, Rob Bell, to name but a very few.

As I said above, many people ‘don’t like’ ‘The Shack‘, even though they’ve never read it. They say it contains ‘heretical’ ideas. While ‘heresy’ just means ideas that are formed from thinking outside the ‘box’, still many people in the Church shy away from it as something ‘dangerous’.*

So, after all that introduction, let me tell you that I read a great article the other day, an article that presents some of the claimed ‘heresy’ of The Shack, and discusses those claims in a level, balanced and rational way. This is one of the best articles I have ever read on this debate; indeed, it is one of the best-written articles I have ever read. It is a real joy to read.

Click the picture below to go to the article.

Enjoy!


*If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31) What possible danger does God not protect his children from? These people know little of the awesome power of God!

I think that some leaders don’t want their people reading this book because it will cause them to lose ‘control’ of their flock. Some of these guys see themselves as the backstop, the guardians, ‘shepherds’, if you like, of their ‘flock’. I know they feel they are ‘protecting’ their ‘flock’. And that’s fine up to the point where they replace Jesus as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11). Jesus is perfectly capable of building His Church. In fact, I would not have thought like this in the past, but I now consider that if someone says that people should not read a certain author, a certain book, or go and hear a particular speaker, then a) that’s a sure sign of control; get out of there as soon as you can; and b) Go and listen to that speaker, read his/her books and especially that book that they don’t want you to read!


At the time of writing, the Kindle eBook edition of The Shack is only 99p (in British money!) on Amazon UK, and $1.27 on Amazon.com. The links are here: Amazon UK and here: Amazon.com if you’re interested.

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Cloud Dancing, May 2017

The other day I took the PA-38 Tomahawk ‘Romeo-Romeo’ (so called because of the phonetic alphabet rendering of the last two letters of her registration ‘Golf- Romeo Victor Romeo Romeo’) up for a dance among the clouds. The idea is that you find some medium-altitude clouds, and use them as a point of reference around which to throw the aeroplane. Turning, rolling, swooping, soaring, climbing and diving – the feeling of freedom is huge, and the scenery (both of the clouds and the beautiful Devon landscape) is spectacular. Sometimes you fly so close to the clouds that it feels as if your wingtip is grazing the brilliant white vapour and you feel like you could simply reach out and touch the clouds themselves.

So, today I present a photo record of my recent cloud dancing flight. All of the pictures are clickable to give you the full-size, zoomable detailed picture. I hope you enjoy them!

This is Romeo-Romeo, prepped for flight and raring to go. Preflight check completed and everything is ready.
Here’s where the fun begins…

Yes, that is Auntie Betty’s Headset sitting on top of the instrument panel, along with my kneeboard and flying gloves…

There are fewer more thrilling, evocative sights than this. Lined up and cleared for takeoff on Runway 26 at Exeter. The adventure begins…
Five minutes after take-off. North end of the Exe estuary and Topsham.
Here I dipped the starboard wing to get a better view of Topsham and the Exe M5 motorway bridges
Exmouth and the seaward end of the Exe Estuary
A good view of Starcross and Dawlish Warren. Shaldon, Babbacombe Bay and Hope’s Nose, Torquay visible in the distance
Rainbow over Dawlish Warren, looking towards Exmouth from the Kenton area.
Torbay coming into view in the distance.
Teignmouth Golf Course with the Teign estuary behind.
Heavy squall near Newton Abbot. I will be avoiding that…
Despite the dark cloudbase and squalls, the visibility today was actually immense. You could see for miles.
Another view showing the excellent visibility.
Chudleigh from 2,000ft.
Time for some cloud dancing. At 3,500ft near Newton Abbot I found these little beauties. They will do nicely for my proposed activity today. When you go cloud dancing, the aeroplane feels like an extension of your own body; the instruments an extension of your senses. There is a real feeling of being ‘in the Zone’; at one with your machine and you can feel the airflow over the wings and fuselage, you can feel the whole thing…there really is nothing like it.
…and some more clouds too. You can tell that I am clawing for more height by the wing angle… Things got a little busy from here on in: swooping, banking, rolling, climbing, diving, skimming the cloud tops and ducking under them, flying through valleys of cloud. Too busy to use the camera, unfortunately. Cloud dancing involves both hands and both feet working the stick, throttle and rudder respectively; this isn’t aerobatics but sometimes it feels as if it is…you need to maintain the ‘energy loading’ of the aeroplane (this is a combination of airspeed, altitude and engine power) and keep a close eye and feel on what the aeroplane is doing. Because the Tomahawk can ‘bite’ quite viciously at low speeds around the stalling speed, you want to stay away from there as much as you can, and this means maintaining a high airspeed. This is especially important when performing tight turns because the margin of airspeed above the stalling speed decreases, due to the stall speed increasing with the square root of the g-loading. So, for example, if you’re pulling 2’g’, the stall speed becomes 1.414 (the square root of 2) times what it normally is. So for a clean stall speed of around 50kt, at 2’g’ you’re looking at about 71 or 72 kt. You really need to keep an eye on things and maintain at least 90kt for the whole thing, and this demands your full attention. Certainly there are no hands free, nor brain cells available, for operating a camera! My apologies…
‘Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . ” Cloud so close you could reach out and touch it…
Cloud dancing finished, plenty of altitude left at 3,800ft.
View down the River Teign from nearly 4,000ft.
Oh, all right then, one last go….More clouds to dance around! These clouds were treated to a powered dive through a valley of cloud between them. The impression of speed is awesome, at about 120kt (that’s about 137mph).
And here’s Romeo-Romeo back on the ground. Thanks for the flight, dear lady. See you next time…
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The Heavenly Perspective

This entry is part 12 of 20 in the series Fiona

To be honest, I was at a loss for what to write for my regular 25th-of-the-month article about Fiona. Over the three weeks or so before writing this piece, (which was actually written about ten days before it was published), I have been quite fed up; I’ve certainly not been my usual buoyant, optimistic self! It’s mainly because a number of occurrences and circumstances have together reminded me especially of the permanence – at least for this life – of my loss of that amazing lady. We were very close and we shared everything. And so, I am missing her so much, and there is this huge gap that she left in every area of my life. And of course there are the huge gaps in the lives of all the people who loved her. We lost a real treasure on that day, seven months ago today.

And yet, as I have shared previously, I know she is in the presence of her Lord Jesus. She is in an amazing place where she has her animals, she can worship the Lord face to face – and she is most likely part of that great crowd of people in Heaven that I mentioned in my previous post*.

Let’s look at them again:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

Those are people who can see that God’s purposes in History were all part of His Great Plan, on a level and of a complexity that we cannot even begin to fathom. As I’ve said before, we can only gain an inkling in this life of how that all works, what the answers are to Life’s Big Questions. But these guys have what you might call the Heavenly Perspective – they can see what’s really been going on all this time, and, like I said before, they worship God in response to what they have seen!

Now, think of it like this: I too – and you – are also in that great multitude. And so,  you see, it means that we too can live today from within that Heavenly Perspective that our ‘future selves’ will know. Part of bringing the Kingdom into today, part of our eternal life in the here-and-now, is surely to bring that Heavenly Perspective into our lives, and the lives of others we meet, today. Jesus said that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). This meant that wherever Jesus was, so there the Kingdom was. He was bringing forward, into the lives of the people around Him, the glories and benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. And because Jesus lives in us by His Spirit, that same Kingdom is here with us right now, in our everyday lives. All we really need to do is to realise this!

Now, we know that one day we will be singing with that great crowd, in the full knowledge of God’s huge creative and redemptive genius throughout history, where we will see that even those things that bother us now were but a part of that huge tapestry of interconnected events that all worked out in the end. We will in fact have that Heavenly Perspective. We too will see how it all worked; how that great Plan happened and how it all came together.

And so, because we will see that perspective then, why not pre-empt that and live in that knowledge now? We know even now that, one day, we will know in completeness what everything was all about (1Cor 13:12) like those in that great crowd, why not today join with our ‘future selves’ in their knowledge that it’s all great, and actually just fine and dandy. You can imagine our ‘future selves’ thinking wryly (because there will be no regret in Heaven!) “Oh if only I’d had that perspective back then!” But we can indeed have that perspective right now!

I hope this makes sense; it is a bit metaphysical, and I know as well as the next guy that it’s hard to maintain a ‘Heavenly Perspective’ when life is burning us and we are still in the flames of whatever troubles we are going through. Believe me, I have been through the fire these past three years; I have walked the walk, and the talk I am talking is based on what I have learned over that time.

But, you know, the Scripture speaks of ‘Treasure in jars of clay’ (2 Cor 4:7) – something immeasurably valuable in ordinary human bodies. It speaks of us having the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, a downpayment if you like, to guarantee the things that are to come (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). This is what powers the Life in the Spirit.

What does this life look like? Well, I have written a piece on this here, but I will summarise by saying that there is joy, there is healing, there is power, there is love, there is freedom from bondage, freedom from religious Rules, freedom from the power of sin, freedom from addiciton, freedom from the fear of death; there is the overriding sense of God’s Presence that gives this immense ‘peace that passes understanding’ (Phil 4:7) – a peace that is beyond understanding because it cannot be explained in terms of worldly circumstances. And beyond all that, there is this:

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” ” (John 11:25-26)

Sounds as if Jesus is contradicting Himself, doesn’t it? But He’s not. He’s using the old Hebrew poetry device where two concepts are matched together to reveal a deeper truth. What He meant was that when we die, we will still live. He’s talking about the ‘afterlife’, if you like. And He reinforces this by saying that when a living person like you or I believes in Him, we will not die, since He has already explained that we will still live even after death. So, in a totally real way (not just ‘in a sense’, as I was going to write), this means that once you believe in Him, your life will be one amazing, long walk with Him through this life and, without pause, into the next. Jesus says it quite plainly, in fact, in John 5:24, where He says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”. Did you see that? A believer has already crossed over from death to Life! It happens now. This is the assurance that Christians have. This is the assurance that Fiona had, and now knows in full measure. This is the Gospel, or at least a huge part of it. Passing through the veil of death at the end of a believer’s life here on earth is merely the moving on into the fuller, complete life we have been just starting to get used to, during our lives here. This is simply amazing stuff; it’s the sort of thing you can build your entire life on (Matthew 7:24).

This is the inheritance of the Saints (that’s you and me and Fiona) – eternal life beginning now, and continuing for ever. How’s that for Good News! Of course, the thing with an inheritance, remember, is that it’s something you get in this life because of Someone who has died. Go figure!

So, as the old hymn goes:

“Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides!”

Wow!

And so, in the light of my opening lines here about being fed up, even just writing this piece has buoyed my spirit again. It has reminded me once again of all the mighty promises in God that are mine – and yours – to hold and to use. I needed to regain that perspective. And I have.

Even now, for the things I have already seen in my life and in the lives of others, I can still worship God for what He’s done already, very much like those people in Heaven.(Psalm 145:4).

So, I am asking God to increase my awareness of the Heavenly Perspective, like the one that Fiona and our ‘future selves’ have. It’s very much a foretaste of what is to come!

And for such great things as these, what better response than worship? Let me leave you, then,  with a great song based on the words those saints are singing – The Song of Moses:

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

Hallelujah, O Hallelujah!

Be blessed!


Header picture shows Fiona on the South-West Coast Path overlooking St. Mary’s Bay, Brixham, on a glorious Devon spring day. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, and Fiona always loved this walk. If Heaven is anything like Devon – and I believe that everything beautiful on this earth is a pale reflection of the glory and reality of Heaven – then it will be glorious indeed.


*I know that the Book of Revelation is not intended to be taken entirely literally. But there are still passages in that book that nevertheless show a glimpse of things indescribable to the human mind, through the use of metaphysical imagery. Basically it’s the best that John (the writer of Revelation) could do given the limited descriptive powers at his disposal – the same limits that you or I would come up against even today, were we to try to describe the inexpressible things he saw in his vision. And so, I have no problem in setting aside some of the more weird imagery in that book until such a time as Holy Spirit makes its meaning clear to me, while at the same time getting to grips with those parts – like the passages in this piece – for which I feel I have sufficient revelation (no pun intended; I hate puns!) to make a decent case for my insight in this piece.


[Edit: Not long after I wrote this post, there was a terrible terrorist suicide bomb attack on a crowded arena in Manchester. It was at an Ariane Grande concert; 22 people at least lost their lives and many more were injured, many of them young people and children. I don’t know why these things happen. But it is my sincere wish that people from such bereaved families find this post and take comfort from it. It’s easy to say this now, but, believe me, one day it will all make sense. I say that not from a callous heart but from one that has been through the same kind of fire. Jesus loves you. God loves you. Rest in the knowledge that your loved one(s) are being held gently in God’s arms. If you want to contact me about this, please do so and you’ll find the contact link in the menus at the top of the page. Or post a reply below.]

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All The World He Made Is Good

Here’s a lovely song by my favourite Gospel singer, the brilliant Don Francisco. No prizes for guessing what it’s about 😉

In beginning was the Word
And He spoke and made the world
Then He filled the sky with light
And He saw that it was good

Land and sea then living things
Teemed and swarmed and multiplied
And all of life lived as it should
And God said that it was good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

Man and woman stood serene
Walked with God in gardens green
God blessed all His hands had made
And called it beautiful and good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Instrumental)

Sit very still and look around
See the colors, hear the sounds
Let all His love come shining through
‘Cause your Father made it all for you

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Extended instrumental outro)


So much of Christian theology explains the state of the world – the disasters, the poverty, the cruelty of man and nature – as being because the world is somehow ‘bad’. And that the ‘badness’ is explained because of humanity’s ‘Fall’ in the Garden of Eden. The thing is, for me, the Eden story is part of the Jewish creation myth that was never intended to be read as actual history – and I don’t believe that the world is bad like that theology asserts. Yes, that’s going to annoy the Biblical literalists, but that’s not my problem. The part I do believe is that, because God is good (and in Him there is no darkness [evil]) (1Jn1:5), then I believe He created the world as good as well – in Genesis 1:31 it says that ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’. And I believe it is still very good.

Without going into detail about why bad things happen (I do examine these ideas a little in this article about ‘Life’s Big Questions’), I also think that the first and the last books of the Bible contain two symmetrical ideas.

Let me explain. In Genesis 1:31,  we saw that ‘God saw…that…it was very good’. In Revelation 15, there is a great crowd in Heaven who can all see the great things God has done, and how He has worked things out according to His purposes. All things have come to their conclusion, and the huge and mighty wisdom of God, through the ages of history, has been revealed. Here’s what they sing:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

As I have previously written in this article, they can see all of History in its vast sweep and scale, with all its hatred and horror, with all its triumph and joy, and still they sing that song. They see how everything has worked out for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) – and that His righteous acts have been revealed.

So, bringing these two symmetrical threads together – Yes, the World is Good, and Yes, somehow God works His purposes out despite – and through – all the bad things that happen. The world was good in the beginning, and somehow, because God is working His purposes out, the world is good now as well.

Ok, this might all seem a bit nebulous in the light of international bad things that happen like tsunamis, famines, ISIS and Donald Trump’s presidency. And it is indeed a kind of Rabbinic teaching concept, where opposite views are held in tension in order to find the truth somewhere in between. But taking the two arguments from Genesis and Revelation together, we can see that actually things are good, God is (somehow) working His purposes out, and it will all fall into place – and make sense – in the end. What a day that will be!

Right, I have thrown a pile of ideas at you, none of which probably makes any coherent sense – but that means it’s now time to go and meditate on it. Think about it, let the Spirit guide you into all truth (Jn 16:13). If what I’ve written helps, great; if not, just discard it and enjoy the music 🙂


I chose the header image because it is a combination of a cloud-covered Earth, an eclipsed Sun with the ‘diamond ring’ phenomenon and with the Moon’s shadow projected onto the cloudscape, and the backdrop of our own Milky Way galaxy behind. Even the huge scale of the objects represented here is miniscule compared with the beyond-incomprehensible size of the Cosmos. All the world indeed is good. And God is bigger than all that and yet He – the Creator of the Universe – chooses to live in us. How awesome is that?!

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This Is My Freedom

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” – John 8:36 (KJV)

About three years ago, I returned to Church life, willingly, and at the direct request of Father God. I say ‘willingly’, because it marked the end of fifteen years of hardly being able to set foot in a church building, and at the same time learning how to live free from deadly church doctrines, rules and expectations. I’d been ‘detoxed’ over that time; I’d learned my freedom. And, you know what, even after I’d gone back into Church, God never once told me that it was time for the freedom to end. (There’s a little more detail on this in my Testimony)

And now I live in that freedom. Freedom from the power of sin, freedom  from the fear of death, freedom from being tied to others’ opinions, freedom from having to strive to please God, freedom to be who I am, free in fact to live life to the full with complete freedom from any kind of fear.

This sort of lifestyle is described really well in Romans 6:6-14, especially in The Message translation/paraphrase:

“Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

“That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.”

– Romans 6:6-14 Message

I love that. Never again will death have the last word. Never indeed! Jesus’s Resurrection shows that God was declaring the rule of Death, in terms of its power to destroy and separate forever, was over. In Isaiah 25:6-9, written about 600 years before the death of Jesus of Nazareth, this prophecy is recorded:

On this mountain* the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

 In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

– Isaiah 25:6-9

*(‘On this mountain’ referring to the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified)

I mean, how awesome is that? That 600 years before the death of Christ, the prophecy is that death shall be defeated; that victory was the victory of Christ over death on the hill of Golgotha.

Is it any wonder, then, that I marvel at the immensity of the salvation (the Greek word for this is sōzō, meaning being ‘made whole’) that is offered us in Christ. I wrote about this some time ago but that article still stands. The whole salvation story and the truth of it is starkly real in this age of wishy-washy beliefs, rubbish television programs, terribly incompetent Governments and the like.

This salvation – meaning, as we said above, ‘wholeness’, represents the only real hope for us both personally and as a civilization. But because it is based on the solidity of God and the removal of the world’s main weapon – fear – it alone has the power to change lives and make a real difference to real people today. We are ‘saved’ – sōzō’d – to be free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1) – not to struggle and try, but to rest in His finished work. It is finished! (Jn 19:30)

So remember – if it doesn’t look like freedom – then it isn’t the Gospel!

I leave you with the amazing words penned by Charles Wesley in 1738, from his hymn ‘And Can it Be‘:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth and followed Thee!

This is my testimony. This is my freedom!

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To Christian Parents of LGBTQI Children

Not that this has happened to me, but imagine you are a Christian parent (or parents) and one of your children tells you that they are of an ‘alternative’ sexuality. That is, they are gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transexual, queer/questioning or Intersex.

For some Christian parents, this would be a non-issue. For me, that would indeed be the case. But for others, whose deeply-held beliefs tell them that this is simply wrong, wrong, wrong, what do they do? I really feel for these people. On the one hand, their parental instinct is telling them to simply love and accept their child; on the other, their beliefs, church or maybe friends/family are, well, at least making it difficult for them to come around to their new knowledge.

In this beautifully-written piece, Susan Cottrell, herself the mother of five children, two of whom are part of the LGBTQI ‘community’, gives her perspective on this important matter. If you are in this kind of ‘situation’, it is well worth reading. Susan has ‘walked the walk’; in my book, that gives her more than the right to ‘talk the talk’. Click the image below to go to the article:

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Lee O’Hare Talks On Hell

My regular readers will most likely know my stance on the eternal conscious torment model of Hell. That is the model that everyone who doesn’t decide to believe in Jesus in this life will spend eternity in agonising torment. And also, according to certain Christians, so will those people like me who claim that there is no such place 😉

Well, I don’t believe in that model at all. While my Hell Resource Page describes my beliefs as they were at the time of writing, I have developed my Hell ideas since then and have become even more convinced that Hell as portrayed by the Christian church does not exist. And key to this transformation of ideas has been the input from various groups I am a member of on Facebook; people who are free to discuss ideas and bat concepts back and forth between them.

One major contributor in these groups is Lee O’Hare, an American gentleman who leads a church in a coffee shop on Sundays. Here, then, is Lee speaking to his group on the subject of Hell, and why he thinks it is a flawed concept.

One thing that’s is so great about this talk, as well as it being a superb exposition anyway, is that so many people are discovering the same things at the same time. Lee and I both think that Hell is a besmirching of our Father’s name; that anyone could believe, much less propagate, the idea that the loving Father God, who is just like Jesus (Heb 1:3) is ok with torturing the majority of humanity in a roaring furnace for ever and ever and ever. No, just no. So, here’s Lee talking on that subject.

The talk is 52 minutes long, but it’s well worth listening to if you have the time. Listen with an open mind and feel your spirit lift 🙂

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Where Else Would We Go?

Here’s a beautiful piece by Nathan Smith; rather than give it a long introduction, I’ll just hand over to Nathan and the introduction he gave it in our Facebook group:

” “It’s no longer simply a question of “why would we go back,” more like “how would we even go back?” How would we trade a paradigm of mercy and grace for a black and white world of “us and them?” How would we darken our eyes to the fiery beauty of creation?”

I call this one “Where Else Would We Go?” It’s a reflection for the wanderers and misfits.

Love to you all, it is journeying with you all that inspired this piece.”

Out here so far from home, the fire of Pentecostal fervor and the build-and-crash of revival music I wonder, would I ever go back? Would I ever return to what Jonathan Martin calls the “Christ haunted landscape” of my upbringing? When so much has shifted mentally and theologically, I wonder if I would still find a place of comfort in the religion of my past.

The path I think a lot of us wanderers and misfits have taken is not a breakaway from one set of theological precepts to another. It’s not like we just simply traded conservative theology for progressive theology. What I mean to say is, it’s not a shift that happens solely in the mind.

There’s this moment, and I think a lot of my fellow wanderers will know what I’m talking about, this moment where it’s like you wake up to the beauty of the world and see God in everyone. The blinders come off and you no longer see sinner and saint, believer and unbeliever. Instead you see the real suffering and struggle and the inherent beauty of all creation. That’s more than just a change in beliefs, that’s a paradigm shift.

I think it’s the difficulty so many of us have in setting foot in church again. Before we would have felt right at home and at comfort in our well-worn pews. Now, we approach church with a sense of hopeful caution. We know what we want to find inside those doors but we’re not taking any chances either. And can you blame us? When the whole world has turned to fire in front of our eyes, when mercy has lit this thing ablaze, how do we sit in pews and talk about the dreaded “them?” Not to say that many of us won’t darken the doors of a church again, we will. And we’ll muster every ounce of hope to do so.

It’s no longer simply a question of “why would we go back,” more like “how would we even go back?” How would we trade a paradigm of mercy and grace for a black and white world of “us and them?” How would we darken our eyes to the fiery beauty of creation? There’s no change in beliefs sufficient to do the task. What has happened has happened in our hearts, in the core of who we are.

I’m reminded of the words of Peter to Jesus, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of life.” Once you’ve tasted of the “words of life” I think it’s near impossible to go back. The words of life aren’t doctrinal precepts or rigid beliefs. Rather it’s a melting of heart-walls, a return to the childlike state which views all the world as beautiful and all her inhabitants as sacred.

And the words of life aren’t found in doctrinal confessions or in lofty tomes;

They are eaten in times of desperation.

They are seen in mountain top experiences of joy.

They are touched in the humble moments of friendship.

The words of life are found when and where it matters most: when life gets shitty, and when life gets intimate — that is, when life gets sacred. There’s no doctrine sufficient to express the pain in a loss loved one, or in the birth of a long-awaited child. Doctrine just won’t do. But beauty will. Mercy will.

The words of life allow us to see all the world as sacred, all moments as consecrated. All food as blessed, all people as loved. And the words of life teach us to bless all things. We can’t get to this place by simply shifting beliefs around or doctrine-delving in the latest theological fad. We must wander with Jesus awhile, allow him to change us, to teach us, to transfigure us.

Where else would we go?

Jesus has the words of life.

Abba has the words of life.

Amen.


Here’s the link to the original piece. Click here or on the image below.

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Controlled Flight Into Terrain

‘Controlled Flight Into Terrain’ (or CFIT) is the number-one cause of fatal aircraft accidents in the UK. That is to say, the pilot has not lost control of his aircraft – he is still completely in control – but the aeroplane is destroyed by a collision with the ground. How can this happen? Far and away the most common cause of this sort of accident is where the Pilot flies into a cloud* at low level, and that cloud just happens to have a solid centre. So, something like a mountain, a hill, a radio mast, that sort of thing. Pilots have a name for that sort of cloud; we call it ‘cumulogranite’. Invariably, the aeroplane loses such an argument, but, of course, the simple answer is to avoid flying into cloud at all, never mind at low level. My Pilot’s licence does not allow me to fly in cloud anyway, so it’s a no-brainer.

So, for me, a CFIT accident should never happen.

Or so you would have thought.

Let me tell you the brief story of a rare ‘hairy moment’ I managed to contrive a bit back, that could have become a CFIT but for my decisive action.

While flying one of the Piper Tomahawks from my local Flying Club in Devon, I decided to perform a ‘Practice Forced Landing’, or ‘PFL’ for short. As described in this article, it’s where you pretend that the hamster has died** and the engine has therefore failed, so you need to practice the unpowered glide down towards a suitable field. But you don’t actually land there, as you would do in a real emergency; no, once you think you’d have made it, you open the throttle again and climb away.

Now, I have only been flying from this airfield in Devon for a year or so. For the previous few years, I have been flying over the gently rolling, undulating Cornish countryside. The Devon countryside is similar, but we do have at least one giant ridge, called Haldon Hill, which rises several hundred feet out of the western side of the Exe Valley. Oh and there’s the huge, high plateau of Dartmoor as well, but that doesn’t figure in this story. Most of the time, though, Haldon Hill is not a problem because we fly at 2,000 feet or higher, so the Hill is well below us.

But for a PFL, by definition, you do go down low and fly pretty close to the ground. You are pretending you’re going to land, after all.***

So, on this particular occasion, I ‘failed’ the engine at 2,000ft at a randomly-chosen time and chose a field a few miles west of Starcross on the Exe estuary (‘randomly-chosen time’ because you don’t look for a nice big field and then fail the engine once you’ve found one; in real life, the engine would likely fail with little or no warning and you wouldn’t have that luxury). A nicely-sized triangular field on a slight uphill slope (this helps slow the plane down once you’ve landed) and directly into wind, and with a farm next to it. In real life that would have been the perfect place to land. And, also noting that Haldon Hill was well clear a good few miles away to the west so that should be fine; there was plenty of space for me to climb away so I don’t hit it.

So, I conducted the PFL drill and got down to about 300ft. I wanted to go a little lower than normal – usually no lower than 500ft above ground level – to see what an open field looks like from a lower level. Having decided that, had that been a real forced landing, I would have survived, I selected full power and began the climb away. Looking up from the field, well I can’t say I went into a panic because I don’t do that, but right there in front of me, less than a mile away, was a bloody great big treeline – a ridge with loads of trees on it – and I was looking up at it! The top of the treeline was a good 250ft above me…

You see, because I had descended for the PFL from above the height of Haldon Hill, I had failed to see the treeline in the foreground and a mile beyond ‘my’ field, because it was well below Haldon Hill. It was down in the ‘ground clutter’, as it were, and as I was concentrating on the field and the landing procedure, I hadn’t seen the ridge under my ‘exit route’. I found out a few days later – by finding ‘my’ field on a map – that the treeline is a medium-sized copse near a wood called ‘Mamhead Big Wood’. Maybe it was called ‘Mamhead Little Copse’ or something. Well, whatever it was called, it certainly looked like it was living up to the larger name right now, Mamhead Big Wood or not, and not only that but it was above me! and it was also getting closer. With less than a mile to run, low on airspeed because I was just recovering from the descent and getting rid of the drag flaps and also nose-up as well (which reduces the acceleration), and not yet at best climb speed, I knew I was going to have to do something pretty decisive. Low on airspeed, altitude and ideas, this is a situation we Pilots call ‘tumbleweed’ for obvious reasons. No way was I going to gain sufficient height to clear ‘Mamhead Little (but getting bigger) Copse’ in the time available.

Adopting the only course left open to me, I decided to turn gently right – again, in a climb, your turning is restricted too because turning uses ‘lift’ from the wings, and when you are climbing you are using most of that already – so the gentle right turn brought me northwards and parallel to the ridgeline. With that terrain feature now to my left, I now had plenty more space to complete the recovery manoeuvre. CFIT avoided.

Map showing my PFL flightpath. Dotted line shows the gliding descent, ‘my’ target field is the triangular one marked with the blue ‘X’, and the climbout escape path is shown as a curving solid line. Arrowheads give direction of travel. ‘Mamhead Big Wood’ visible to the left of the map, but actually it is on the reverse slope into the next valley; the problem wood was that smaller copse to the east. Look at those contour lines; each one of those is 5 metres more altitude…but also see how the land drops away again west of the ridge through Mamhead Big Wood. Scale: Large blue grid square – 1km

So, I learned from this that I should only really do a PFL in properly rolling countryside; I know now that the area between the Exe estuary and Haldon Hill is a tricky complex of ridgelines, slopes and forests which is not good terrain in which to practice forced landings. I have no doubt I would get a plane down in that area safely should the real thing happen, but for practice? Not good, because the exit routes are potentially not good. When you’re trained to do PFLs, you’re trained to look out for certain types of field: fairly level or with a slight upslope; big enough to land in with enough space to stop before you hit the far hedge; into wind and hopefully not into the sun (but the wind direction is more important); hopefully a reasonably smooth and firm ground surface; preferably near to civilization so you can get a cup of tea while you wait for the AA to come out; and no obstructions like trees or power lines on the approach path. But nobody ever mentioned the escape routes. The vast majority of the time, you are going to be doing these sorts of things for practice only, so it’s not just a matter of ‘would I have got into the selected field safely’, but also ‘can I get out again once I have completed the PFL exercise?

The day a Pilot stops learning is the day he should stop flying. I’m glad to say that I learned from this event; I got in some good practical and real-time decision-making, and I lived to tell the tale. I wouldn’t say that the event was necessarily dangerous, but it was what we might call ‘marginal’; not much room for error and very much dependent on my skill, experience and knowledge of my aircraft in order to resolve it satisfactorily.

I’m probably going to drive over and have a closer look at ‘Mamhead Big Wood’ and ‘Mamhead Little Copse’ sometime. I would say that it’s in order to see what it looks like from the ground, but I would think that I can make a pretty-well informed guess about that already, don’t you? 😉


*The number two cause of fatal aircraft accidents is ‘loss of control in IMC’ (‘IMC’ meaning ‘Instrument Meteorological Conditions’ or, again, cloud), that is, the Pilot gets into cloud, gets disorientated, and loses control of the aircraft. Again, very rare and easily avoided (because we’re not supposed to fly into cloud for that very reason), but still worth bearing in mind.

**Everyone knows that light aeroplane engines are powered by a hamster running on a little wheel, under the engine cowling; this makes the propeller go round very fast.

***People sometimes ask me “How low can you fly in those aeroplanes of yours? How close to the ground can you go?” To which, of course, the only correct answer is, “All the way down. It’s called “landing” ‘ 😉


Header image shows Piper PA-38 Tomahawk G-RVRR, callsign ‘Romeo-Romeo’, one of the two Tomahawks I fly.

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