A recent video circulating the interwebs once more brought up the whole issue of heaven and hell that Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, already initiated. It got me thinking some more around the issue. But not about heaven and hell itself. Rather, I’ve been thinking lately about how our process of understanding truth, how we understand God, faith, and the Bible.
In Christianity, theology (the study of God) is often presented as an intellectual pursuit. Sure, belief isn’t the only thing - spirituality, worship, faith, etc... help express the emotional and experiential side of our religion. But these are often separate from theology, separate from what we believe. And so there are thousands upon thousands of books, confessions, tracts, and now podcasts and blogs explaining the intellectual viability of Christianity in one form or another. Even Rob Bell, for all his creativity, sticks mainly to considering belief in the abstract concepts of heaven and hell. Not much in the area of theology could be described as "theologically dazzling." Sadly for many, "boring" would be a more fitting term.
Which got me thinking, what about other methods of understanding? Plays? Novels? Movies? Paintings? In understanding our beliefs, are these genres given the same weight as a theology book? Is Calvin superior to Shakespeare? Is N.T. Wright better than the Coen Brothers? If we look at the genres of the Bible, we realize pretty quickly how diversely truth is communicated - poetry, imagery, exposition, narrative, and letters all combine to reveal what we know about God.
After reading Love Wins (and reviewing it, in case you missed it), I’ve decided to read The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Perhaps it’s the intriguing narrative or perhaps it’s the brilliant characters, but I think Lewis was on to something by doing so much of his theology in novel format. It’s real. It’s honest. We can relate. And it’s fun to read!
And speaking of The Great Divorce, Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre is currently running a stage production of the book. Talk about a great way to do theology! I hope to check it out. Here's the write-up:
Hell resembles nothing so much as a dreary industrial city in the north of England, its denizens free to leave whenever they like — aboard a bus bound for a heaven that’s like nothing you’ve ever imagined. A theologically dazzling journey studded with memorable characters, mind-spinning dialogue and images of human folly and sublime hope that will forever change the way you see eternity.
Our world could use a little more creativity to help bring some "dazzle" to our often narrowly intellectual discussions around faith and belief in God.