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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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124 Responses to 496

  1. Pierre says:

    Not just yet at least ;-)

  2. marcus says:

    ??

  3. dennis says:

    Kaaboooom! I love you Jon (in a brotherly kind of way) Your a bit like a hand grenade!

    Very thought provoking but I don’t feel like being provoked today as I had a bad experience yesterday, too much provocation! (yesterday that is not the cartoon)

  4. TyTe says:

    Secretly, TyTe feels a little bit of a heretic for loving being alive and created…

    I was thinking, just yesterday, that I’m not sure I want to live forever. I mean, I love this life and this world, and I have loved being alive and experiencing it. I feel an overwhelming privilege to be here and my lot in life has been extremely blessed. Now, I know that my experience is far from the experiences of others for whom life has been a torment or continuous struggle. In a small way, I too have experienced pain and suffering, but I have had such a good (blessed) innings so far. Thank you God – from the bottom of my heart.

  5. sarah says:

    Hell yeah!

    Well I will but it’s just a stop off.

    Loving this earth baby.

    Sas x

  6. Robb says:

    I am.

    “OOOOOOOOOoooooooooh heaven is in my heart”

    and

    “OOOoooooooo baby do you know what that’s worth?”

    and…. another song or two…..

  7. Ben says:

    In short:

    amen!

  8. AnneDroid says:

    But maybe God says: “Are you not, indeed? I’ll decide, Birch!”

  9. soniamain says:

    I love the bit in the last battle of the narnia series where the children see all the best bits of the creation, and they places they know and love- one of the best descriptions and imagery of the renewed earth that I have seen.

    I love this cartoon Jon :)

  10. tallandrew says:

    Rob Bell says (Nooma – Trees) that Christians are those who have started living and are never going to stop living… For Christians, the kingdom of heaven starts now.

  11. janetp says:

    I take it this is your comment on the conversation about “new heaven and new earth” from the other day, Jon? I’ve heard some passionate and thought-provoking arguments in favour of ‘not going to heaven when we die’, mainly based on the passage in Revelation and, if I remember correctly, the influence of Greek thought on the early church. Must admit, though, that I’m not entirely sure what Jesus’ view was: on the one hand, he starts the Lord’s Prayer with “Our Father who art in heaven …”; on the other, he says time and again that the Kingdom of Heaven is here/near/upon us. It’s all very confusing.

    The one thing I’m sure about is that whatever this life throws at us, we shouldn’t squander it.

  12. chaino says:

    AMEN! new heaven and new earth…im there!

    its interesting because i attended a conference on the resurrection about 4 years after i was a christian, and it was only then that i really thought about our resurrection and the new creation.

    which is kinda funny, seeing as it was a BIG thing for the jews, and yet so many christians dont know much on this.

    although i do think that there is the possibility of a sort of waiting place for christians (e.g. to be from the body is to be present with the Lord verse.)
    but ultimately, God will dwell among us on the new heaven and new earth. its a great thought! i can only imagine what it will be like.

  13. chaino says:

    sorry i keep saying “new heaven” which i meant as in like the heavens above, universy kinda thing.

  14. Ben says:

    I loved Rich’s description of what “new”/”renewed” in the greek means under the conversation #494. I think that the New Earth will be so much more amazing than this one that it won’t disappoint those expecting Heaven!

    I get confused as to whether we dwell in Heaven between our death and when Jesus returns.. some theologians say so but see no biblical evidence of this.

    janetp (11): God is indeed in heaven as I understand it – it’s just we won’t join him in the end, he’ll join us on (new) earth (or the New Heaven and New Earth will be so much closer than the current ones are.)

    If we’re not going to heaven how do we bring the ruler of heaven’s rule to earth?

  15. jonbirch says:

    with you chaino. the jews have never had any concept of going to heaven. like janetp says, there is a lot of confusion. we can glean from scripture that the dead wait with christ, but we really have no concept of what that means. jesus mentions paradise once… i wonder whether this is why people think that the bible teaches that we go to heaven. but the bible is clear… ‘new’ or ‘renewed’ heaven and earth is the destination.
    i can understand the desire to escape. the old black gospel songs sing of it a lot… beautiful songs, theology all over the place, but amazing heart and spirit.
    there are at least three meanings of heaven in the bible… there’s the heavens of the stars and planets… there’s the heavens where war rages between good and evil… and there’s heaven where god resides, a place free from sin. one day, as it was in the beginning, god will once again be at one with his world and everything will once again live under his authority. that’s what the bible says.

  16. jonbirch says:

    annedroid… you made god sound just like an old teacher of mine! :-) i hope he uses my christian name too. :-) the way this subject makes me feel, from where i am now in my life, having lost my mum not too long ago… is that i want to end up where she is.
    the reason for this cartoon, is that i see escapist theology as being at the heart of why much of the church is not interested in stewardship in the way god instructed. dualism literally kills everything its path. as someone said in an earlier thread, ‘naughty greeks.’

  17. Robb says:

    Oh damnit I’ve just bought a new book. Stop talking about topics I’m not so well versed in. You had the sole extent of my knowledge in the last thread!

  18. jonbirch says:

    i don’t know robb… you studious types are your own worst enemies! :-) :-) :-)

  19. Miriam says:

    Well there’s only one other place you can go isn’t their?

  20. Robb says:

    Centerparks?

  21. Rich says:

    Tom Wright suggests that Heaven is the ‘control room’ for the earth… perhaps this is helpful – for indeed it often feels as if there is a battle going on in the control room… what do others think?

    One other question, in response to Ben’s (14) last comment (“If we’re not going to heaven how do we bring the ruler of heaven’s rule to earth?”) what did Peter mean by ‘speeding’ the Lord’s return?

    2 Peter 3:10-13…
    10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and ‘speed its coming’. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

  22. Rich says:

    Tom Wright suggests that Heaven is the ‘control room’ for the earth… perhaps this is helpful – for indeed it often feels as if there is a battle going on in the control room… what do others think?

    One other question, in response to Ben’s (14) last comment (“If we’re not going to heaven how do we bring the ruler of heaven’s rule to earth?”) what did Peter mean by ‘speeding’ the Lord’s return?

    2 Peter 3:10-13…
    10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and ‘speed its coming’. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

  23. jonbirch says:

    robb… hahahaha! :-)

    miriam… my point is, i don’t believe that. i am not going to hell either. these are not the biblical options. sure they’re the ones often preached, but that’s not what the bible says. what is bad gets cut off and dies… what is good remains and finds fulfillment. that’s the bible’s position, even if it is not always the churches.

  24. Robb says:

    Jon – I’ve never really thought of it as being that important for me to think about. I am here and I am now and God has things for me to do. I’ve generally got on with finding out stuff about what I need to be getting on with. I already need 28 hours a day to do that! I will worry about then and there when it is closer to the here and now…. but now I m intrigued and need to know.

    I wonder if there is something about the throws of youth that makes us less concerned about death. Lets face it, death happens to other people ;)

  25. jonbirch says:

    yep. ben’s question is a good one rich.

  26. jonbirch says:

    robb… i think one of the problems is how bad theology affects the here and now. at one level it is about ‘where am i going?’, on another it is ‘where is it all going?’ it’s this second question that has been ignored because the first has had the wrong answer attributed to it. i think i said that badly.
    if we believe in the goodness of creation and the redemption of all things we will have a different attitude. now there are of course those who have a good attitude regardless of theology… but even they are constantly undermined by the dualism around them which comes from the platonistic claptrap often preached.

  27. dennis says:

    The only other place to go is Spring Harvest.

  28. Robb says:

    Can’t beat a week in skeggy ;)

  29. gilly says:

    i think…but i may be wrong…that many people in church wouldn’t recognised platonistic claptrap if it came and smacked them round the head twice

  30. janetp says:

    I’m not very good at the ins and outs of theology (don’t study enough – unlike Robb!), but it often seems to me that the most important thing about what happens when I die is …… what happened when I lived. I’m thinking sheep and goats here. Jesus taught that the key criterion to ‘dying right’ was ‘living right’, which isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds – the parable makes clear that saying and doing certain things doesn’t automatically = ‘living right’ …. although ‘living right’ will include saying and doing certain things.

    Now I’m all confused again! :0)

  31. Mark Berry says:

    Centreparks… Brilliant Robb! :D :D Not sure which of the two that is supposed to be though???

  32. Robb says:

    the key criterion to “dying right” was “living right”

    You seem to study plenty!
    ;)

  33. jonbirch says:

    that’s it exactly janetp.

  34. jonbirch says:

    i’ve been to two center parcs… longleat and sherwood… longleat is best hands down! :-) i think there’s one at elveden too… didn’t part of its dome burn down a few years ago?

  35. Chris F says:

    The people who have never lived are afraid to die. It’s ALL about here and now, not the past, not the future

    None of us knows, really, what will happen after death, what the new earth means – and although I’m fascinated by it and would quite like to know, we have the merest hints from scripture. Paul was clear, given his choice, that it is better by far to depart and be with Christ -so whatever that means in terms of time/spce/eternity – count me in to!

    Meanwhile – I agree with all those who say get on with it while we’re here

  36. Chris F says:

    It’s also a very important part of the grieving process to “emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life”.

    I have no difficulty in relocating my loved ones with Christ and am comforted that they are safe now. If people want to say “she’s in heaven now” to signify this truth, that seems ok to me

  37. Forrest says:

    Y’all start good discussions here!

    While I am looking forward to having a body that doesn’t hurt like this one is this morning, it’s just now 8:22am here, and so is Kathy, hers is worse; and there is much curiosity about what the new Earth and those “many mansions” will look like, I’m not yet ready to go to eternity – there’s things I want to do here yet.

    Somewhere the Bible, I think, says about there being not much in the way of open water in Heaven except for the River of Life flowing from the throne. But what about the new earth? Certainly we’re not just going to sit around playing harps and counting rainbows in eternity -it seems there should be jobs for us to do to run the place, kind of picking up where things were left off in the Garden of Eden.
    Maybe it’s silly and childish, but what I want to do on the New Earth is build wooden boats; keep/work with a few animals, and make and fly kites.

    Pleasant thoughts of eternity to me are: brightness, colors, friends, God, open skies, great vistas across the landscape, clear water – and splashing and playing in it, saying, “Hey, Good Morning!” to Jesus and shaking his hand, saying “Hey Good Morning!” to the animals and trees and rocks, saying “Hey Good Morning!” to family, to friends, to you guys here.
    And of those things I would like to do while in Eternity – talk to my friends about the glories of God while running my hands over the smoothly faired hull of a wooden sailboat being made for the enjoyment of those friends; laugh and drink cool clear water while watching ‘kites of many colors’ dancing in the breezes of a new blue and green Earth as we have a picinc _with_ the lions and tigers and dogs and cats and dragonflies and dolphins and . . . and . . . and . . .

  38. Forrest says:

    And I’d really like to see the architecture of those “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

  39. Robb says:

    It’s also a very important part of the grieving process to “emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life”.

    I remember an elderly brethren relative lamenting her husbands death with the words “he’s looking down on usfrom heaven now”. Later her son had the “you don’t believe that” conversation with her. He know she didn’t believe it as she taught him well that their belief was in “the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come”.

    One passage that hasn’t been mentioned is when Jesus tells of the guy in hell asking if he can go back and tell his relatives how to not go there (can’t remember the passage now). He clearly could see the world. This is where the idea of praying to saints originated from – those who have gone before looking out for us from beyond. Somehow the ‘communion of saints’ transmuted in peoples heads over time from live people to dead people.

  40. flayed Hypatia says:

    re: comment 11

    On the one hand, Jesus said our Father who art in heaven, and on the other, the kingdom of heaven is here and now.

    Put it together. Our Father who art here and now. Makes sense. Kinda loopy to be talking to somebody who isn’t around where you are, at the time you’re talking.

  41. janetp says:

    Robb, Jon: Thank you.

  42. janetp says:

    Robb: The passage you’re talking about is the story of Dives and Lazerus (Luke 16: 19-31 …. according to Wikipedia! :) ) I wonder, though, whether the written account of this story was influenced by some of the Greek (or other) thinking around at the time? In other words, did the idea of heaven & hell come from the gospel passage, or did the gospel take this passage from contemporary thinking about heaven & hell?

    I know some people may think this a heretical notion, and I apologise if I inadvertently offend anyone, but my understanding is that contemporary biblical scholarship has identified a number of areas where New Testament scripture has (at least potentially) been influenced like this.

  43. JF says:

    Why didn’t God just create heaven and have us all live there? Why set up this earthly existence as some kind of test?

    Will anyone from pre-33AD be going to heaven? How will they get in, if no-one comes except through Christ?

    What about all the children who died too young to know their own beliefs? Do I want a God who created Hell for those who have had no chance to know Him?

    Does “living wrong” include being Muslim. Or Hindu? Or Buddhist?

    Can an atheist “live right”?

    If we “live right”, don’t we reap the rewards of that here in this existence. Don’t we get closer to heaven, the more Godly we are? Could that be the “heaven” of the bible?

    If Heaven is like CenterParcs, will you have to pre-book the bowling or will you be able to walk straight on?

    As you see, I have a lot of questions. These and many more!

  44. Robb says:

    I don’t think even John Stott could accuse you of herecy for that statement. Commonly held biblical scholarship both conservative and liberal.

    You may come a cropper with fundies (who never have fun on sunday).

  45. Andy says:

    I’m not entirely sure that the key criterion to “dying right” is “living right” is by itself quite enough.
    Another thing to suggest is that as we don’t and probably can’t ever live completely right we rely on the Father’s grace shown through the self-giving love of Jesus and then with the help of the Spirit we can begin the process of living right

  46. Robb says:

    Man that’s a lot of questions JF. Genesis, yes, limbo doesn’t exist anymore :D , Joe of Aramathea declared “Love the Lord your God…” as the first command for living right in my DVD earlier on today, yes and possibly yes, straight on.

    I’ll maybe answer properly when I am at home. Time to get in the car me thinks.

  47. Robb says:

    Stop posting so fast!! :lol:

    Andy has a point.

    I’m off home!

  48. Caz says:

    Re Chris’ comment # 36

    What would you say to a Christian who is dealing with the loss of a loved one who wasn’t a Christian? How can emotionally relocating them possibly be of any comfort to a believer?

  49. Rich says:

    Just come back from being at a burial of ashes… as it happens…

    Found the words of the Anglican liturgy really brilliant… simple, poetic, true… very hopeful…

    Here is an extract:
    It started with these verses…

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
    By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope
    through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead,
    and into an inheritance, imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
    kept in heaven for you.

    Then we prayed this as the ashes were laid in the ground…

    We have entrusted our brother N to God’s mercy
    and we now commit his mortal remains to the ground:
    earth to earth,
    ashes to ashes,
    dust to dust,
    in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life
    through our Lord Jesus Christ,
    who will transform our frail bodies that they may be conformed to his glorious body,
    who died, was buried and rose again for us.
    To him be glory for ever. Amen

    and finally we prayed this prayer…

    Heavenly Father, we thank you for all those whom we love but see no longer.
    As we remember N in this place,
    hold before us our beginning and our ending,
    the dust from which we come and the death to which we move,
    with a firm hope in our eternal love and purposes for us,
    in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Amen to all that…

  50. janetp says:

    Andy: You’re quite right if the ‘living right’ is limited to things I DO, but I think the point of the sheep and goats story is that it’s as much about being spiritually ‘right’ (motivation) as it is about what you actually do or say.

    To me, ‘living right’ has to include the things you mention because what I do on the outside and ‘where I’m at’ inside are ultimately inseparable and the act of trying to separate them (whatever the reason) necessarily means I’m only partially ‘living’ for a time. In psycological circles, this would probably be referred to as ‘congruence’, although I suspect the term is a little more limited in scope (ie physical/emotional/mental) than I’m trying to get across (physical/emotional/mental/spiritual).

  51. “dualism literally kills everything its path. as someone said in an earlier thread, ‘naughty greeks.’”

    Yet, at the same time, it is how humans think. Good and evil, male and female, this and that. Since we live in the field of time and space we have no choice but to think in terms of opposites. There is also the problem of putting the mind in two places at once, in the world that is here and in that of the transcendent.

    Personally, I think heaven and hell are all here on earth. We experience them everyday.

  52. chaino says:

    hey JF… about the people before Jesus came to earth.
    The bible speaks about this in this way. the believers before Jesus were always hoping in the coming messiah. In Hebrews and Romans, Paul and Peter talk about how Abraham and David were saved through faith, and there faith was credited as righteousness.

    They were saved through Jesus, but they were trusting who was to come.

    Romans 4:1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Hebrews 11

  53. Ben says:

    Wow!! huge debate!

    Robb (39): as I’m sure is said above by you and others: The parable of Lazarus is just whatit says on the tin. It’s a parable, a story.

    It seems to me that so much of our imagery of Heaven and hell is from this passage. We don’t take our farming methods from the parable of the sower or shepherd like the good shepherd who looks after just the lost sheep(I know this is an extreme example but you get my drift)!

    Gilly: “I think…that many people in church wouldn’t recognised platonistic claptrap if it came and smacked them round the head twice”. the sad thing it they would recognise it but not for what it is. They would incorrectly consider it good teaching – how many Left Behind books did LaHaye and thingy sell?

    As Jon says the danger of the a theology that focuses on our final destination is that we become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use!

    “If we’re not going to heaven how do we bring the ruler of heaven’s rule to earth?” “how do we spped the Lord’s return?”

    I’ve just got back from having lunch with my brother and my dad. The two of them haven’t seen each other for 15 years. In a way I see broken relationships being restored as Heaven’s rule impacting on this broken earth. Not sure about how this speeds Jesus return but I’m sure there’s some divine logic that is beyond me in this.

    How else does this look? I tend to think Luke 4 (18-19) is quite good:

    to preach good news to the poor
    to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    recovery of sight for the blind
    to release the oppressed

    by good news I mean both the standard (but extraordinary) gospel (Jesus has died, deaten death and lives!) but also that the kingdom (that is rule) of God is at hand (cf. Mark 1:15)!.

    To really upset certain people I would suggest that the manifesto (i can’t find a better word for it) is a greater commision than the great commision!

  54. Ben says:

    Oh yeah!!! JF has some great questions – I’m going to use some of them as discussion starters.

    Hebrews 9-12 gives some answers to me about the second line. The salvation of people pre-Jesus raises more questions than answers though

  55. chaino says:

    “kingdom of heaven is within you”

  56. Sophie says:

    “There is also the problem of putting the mind in two places at once, in the world that is here and in that of the transcendent.”

    I have been thinking about that very issue today. I remember when I was in my second year at university, praying lots with the people in my hall. It was all very intense, lots of prayers being answered, and I found it hard to keep my feet on the ground.

    The other day I went to a gig (Foy Vance – check him out) and he did a great song called Treading Water – written in a public loo apparently. I sort of feel like I have been for a while. I come from a fairly charismatic background, and whilst I do really want to move on in my relationship with God, I don’t want to go overboard, so that I have trouble relating to normal life. I just don’t quite know how to keep it together.

    I also don’t know if any of that makes sense!

  57. Sophie says:

    Just re-read my post – feel like I should clarify, I feel like I’ve been treading water, not like I’ve been in a public loo :)

  58. gilly says:

    ( given the new cleaning machines recently arrived in one provincial town near here…i am quite prepared to believe that Foy Vance wrote a song called Treading Water in a public loo.
    Ladies, no bags near the doors OK? That machine gets them: think hole-in-the-floor-france and you’re close )
    tangent over
    thank you

  59. Carole says:

    Robb, loved the centreparcs quip. Never been there myself though it has been highly recommended. When it first opened I remember a friend telling a story about her husband having to scoop a small turd out of the pool using a paper cup. Don’t know who produced it. The turd, not the paper cup. Bizarre, the things the memory holds on to. I have, however, been to Spring Harvest. Twice. Minehead.

    Great debate, by the way, everyone. I’m far too thick, theologically speaking to spar with anyone on this (as on many issues). What I will say is that we can be guilty of thinking that the answer to everything is in the Bible. God may well have decided not to upgrade the manual on this matter. I think sometimes we can just argue the toss through a glass dimly (or in my case, argue the toss dimly through a glass!) As a 23 year-old pregnant woman, I was never without a pregnancy and birth book in hand. I never read more than a few weeks ahead. When I had a mere satsuma sized embryo in residence, there was no way I would read the final chapter. I didn’t want to know. But as time moved on and getting through the average door was becoming a logistical nightmare, I was ready to read up on the only way out of my situation. I’m not wildly worried about the semantics of ‘heaven’ at the moment but at some stage I’m sure it will take on greater relevance. Until then I’m happy to leave a little of the mystery intact. I’ll probably be run down by a bus tonight. In my experience God always has the last laugh! :)

  60. Carole says:

    Scuse us chaps, skip to the next post, girly talk warning. Gilly and Sophie, since you have ‘conveniently’ diverted us into lavatorial territory, what is it these days with women’s public loos? So many of them have machines selling condoms but no ‘feminine hygiene’ products? What use is a strawberry flavoured latex prophylactic when you’ve just been caught short on a feminine front? Girly rant over. Cartoon topic will be resumed shortly…

  61. Sophie says:

    gosh Carole, there’s no way of knowing why the change in stock for loo machines. Pretty sure a strawberry flavoured latex prophylactic would be of exactly no use when in that particular situation!

  62. subo says:

    Hi JF, here’s my thoughts on ‘Does “living wrong” include being Muslim. Or Hindu? Or Buddhist?’

    I take this vs in R2 to mean if we are seeking God with our hearts, he is able to meet us. even if we find ourselves seeking him through means available to us rather than through Jesus himself.

    Romans 2 vs 14-16When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong.

    it seems to me, we can reach out in peace and love, drawing on God without know it. and i think God looks at the longings of our heart, to find his kingdom, rather than labels like – Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist.

    at the same time i don’t think the teachings from these traditions blend easily with christian teaching.

  63. jonbirch says:

    ghandi was hindu until the day he died. seems to me, he, for the most part, lived very right. i wish i were more like him.

    carole… you make me laugh! :-)

    i think the usual evangelical line on ‘nobody comes to the father but through me’ is entirely limiting. they think they know what that means… but why is it not possible to come to god through christ without ever hearing his name? of course it is possible… entirely possible.

  64. Robb says:

    Robb (39): as I’m sure is said above by you and others: The parable of Lazarus is just whatit says on the tin. It’s a parable, a story.

    But that doesn’t make it dissapear in a puff of logic. It is still there and still saying something about the afterlife.

    The turd, not the paper cup.
    :lol:

    What use is a strawberry flavoured latex prophylactic when you’ve just been caught short on a feminine front?

    Something to chew over whilst you ponder your dilemma…

  65. Chris F says:

    48 Caz – the point is simply that whether you are a believer or not, it is necessary to emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life; each person has to reconcile their world view with the reality of death. For some death will cause an adjustment in their view – they may allow reality to change the way the’ve always thought. Some (inc many christians) never allow reality to impinge on what they’ve always believed/thought!

    As Jon points out 63 Jesus is the only way but maybe not through hearing his name (including those who have heard but never had a clear enough view to be able to genuinely respond). So I would never presume to have an opinion on the destination of your “unbeliever”. I would say though that “whoever the father calls, I will never turn away” – for who knows the true state of someone else’s soul?

    (I gather the RC’s commonly assert the definite eternal bliss of some – “saints” – but have never asserted the definite eternal damnedness of any one?)

  66. Robb says:

    Good points Chris. I think the pastoral need is what you were originally commenting on. Grieving is a complicated psychological process and relocation is often a part of it. As many philosophers have postulated, without death there would be no religion. I wonder if it is the necessity to keep us interested in God. As Agent Smith says:

    “Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.”

    What the heck, lets throw something else into the pot.

    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)

    A lesser commented upon verse that speals of our salvation. I guess things may be a little different if we printed Jn 3:17 on T-shirts rather than Jn 3:16.

    When the question of “living right” comes up, Jesus put “Love the Lord your God….” top of the list of ways to “live right”.

    How does that fit with “dying right”?

    Still love the tag line “Dying right means living right”! I may put that on something. I don’t know what, but something ;)

  67. Steve Lancaster says:

    “A Cultural History of Condoms” by Prof. E Lactic…

    …Reminds me of my teenage attempts to impress the girl who called me “Hamster” in secondary school, by inventing a superhero called Condom Man, drawing him on my pencil case, and, when she asked, reproducing him on A3 paper so that she could stick it up in her bedroom. He had a big ‘C’ on his chest and useful headgear, and she was way, way out of my league.

    I drew it all at the kitchen table with my parents in and out of the room. I used my arm to shield it, in a constant state of mortification and incipient lust.

    The Australians pinched my idea a year later, and ran an ad campaign promoting AIDS awareness using Condom Man to front it.

    Hang on, I wonder what happens if I google him?

  68. Steve Lancaster says:

    …Woh! (Don’t do this at work.)

  69. Carole says:

    What a wonderful insight into the vulnerability of the teenage Steve Lancaster. Just the sort of story that would make a great Channel 4 film…so why Hamster?…oh do tell!

  70. Anna says:

    Being as impatient as I am, I am sorry if what I say has no relevance or has been said before. Sorry, Im shamefully not bothered to read the vast amount of comments before this one :D
    There is a Hoosiers song (I like the Hoosiers) called ‘The Trick To Life’ and it basicly says ‘ the trick to life is not to get to attached to it’
    I still dont really understand what their on about but mebe it has something to do with this?
    On the subject of heaven – I have the feeling that eternal life seems realy dull. I asked my youth Pastor and he said ‘well what do you like doing most?’ It was between sleeping and drawing. He said it’ll be like that forever – you’ll never get tired of it… yes I will! Can heaven really entertain me for the rest of forever? And when does forever end?
    Infinity is hard to contemplate! That must be why its so hard to contemplate God.

  71. Steve Lancaster says:

    …Too much information, folks. Sorry. (What’s the blushing smiley?)

    On the more serious issue of heaven, and dying right by living right… I really like that quote, Robb…

    I reckon evolutionary psychology, which gets a lot of stick, and not just from creationist christians, is useful to meditate with when it comes to living a full and moral life. It would make sense to me if, along with innate capacities for reproduction and personality development, we should evolve naturally into people who die peacefully and well at, hopefully, a late age, purely in the interests of perpetuating a stable community of gene-carriers supported by and supporting one another. Quite apart from what goes on at the end of time.

    Is anyone else on this blog exploring the ways that Christianity complements evolutionary psychology? Rather than viewing it in the dualistic Church versus Dawkins manner?

  72. Steve Lancaster says:

    69. It was the cheeks, Carole, I think. I mean the upper ones.

  73. shelly says:

    I wonder, though, whether the written account of this story was influenced by some of the Greek (or other) thinking around at the time? In other words, did the idea of heaven & hell come from the gospel passage, or did the gospel take this passage from contemporary thinking about heaven & hell?

    “Hell” is the mistranslation (or, rather, interpretation) of three different Greek words–Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna.

    Hades = the grave, “the realm of the dead”, or the unseen. (In the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament translated to Greek, the Hebrew word “sheol” was consistently translated as “hades”.) All souls–even Christian ones–will go here when they die.

    Tartarus = the deepest abyss of hades. This space is reserved only for the fallen messengers (angels).

    Gehenna = An actual place located in the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, it’s where the locals too their trash to be burned; today, it’s a garden. In the Gospels, Jesus referred to this place figuratively when talking about purification/chastening from sin.

    The doctrine of eternal damnation/hellfire started with Tertullian, Augustine, and Jerome around the fifth and sixth centuries; and it’s stuck with most Christians ever since. Also, most English versions of the Bible are not based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts (the literal translations are, however); the basis was the Latin Vulgate. Virtually all are biased toward this doctrine.

    Anyhoo, I digress some.

    The Darby Translation and Young’s Literal Translation say the rich man ended up in “(the) hades” (the original Greek word used that was mistranslated as “hell”). The Concordant Literal New Testament says he was in “the unseen”.

    This parable was the last of five given in a row. The first are in Chapter 15–the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. The other two are in Chapter 16–the crooked manager, and the rich man and Lazarus. In between the two parables in Chapter 16, Jesus talks about how no one can serve two masters, which really got under the Pharisees’ skin. Shortly after saying that, Jesus started on this fifth parable. What if this has more to do with how we (and the Pharisees in particular) treat other people in the here-and-now than about the hereafter?

  74. tc robinson says:

    Nice one. I love it. See my related article on where Christians are going to spend eternity.

  75. Carole says:

    Please don’t blush Steve…I think it’s quite sweet!

    Anna, you raise some interesting issues. I have no idea what constitutes heaven. But I like to play around with the idea from time to time. I wonder what would be the best thing that I could contemplate – is it perhaps all the best bits replayed. Is it the opportunity say all the smart alec things you wished you’d said at the time? Will we have to work? I don’t want to work for all eternity (mind you, looking at the state of the pensions system I think that’s what the government has in mind – little bit of politics!). These ‘new’ bodies, would they look like us? If so, at what age? If I were to encounter my mum and dad (as I would desperately want to, if the concept of heaven were to allow it) would they look as they were at the end of their lives or would they be in the prime of adult life or children? How weird would that be? If I could choose, I’d like to look like I did at about 27. Would the new Earth mean I would live in a place that looked like the place I’m living in now, only better? If God lived among his people – that is a lot of people. If I wanted to speak to him would it mean having to push my way through several billion sycophantic groupies (like trying to have a word with the priest at coffee, only worse!)

    The entertainment aspect that is a valid point. We live in an over-stimulated environment and many of us have the attention span of a gnat. How will this impact on our renewed/new bodies? Will we start finding that we are not turned on by the styles of worship used in heaven? Eternity is a long time. I don’t think we are hard-wired to understand it.

  76. sarah says:

    Nice one, Steve L. 71.

  77. Anna says:

    Haha, you said about the attantion span of a gnat – I think Im guilty of that :D
    Someone told me that Heaven wil be worship forever. But like you said – what if its not our style? Or does God make a completly new style? Or is it not worship in ayway weve heard about?
    Thats why I think being an angel would be more fun – because then you get to visit earth and scare people, mwahaha!
    But in heaven now? Or does it only happen when the world ends? and doe that mean all the dead people are waiting veeery patiently? Or is heaven outside time with God?

  78. sanctuarybath says:

    my head ends up hurting when I try to think about heaven/new earth. Like you said, Carole, all those people! Here’s a ‘doctor who’ moment for you – what if in the new earth time works differently. So we don’t experience it in linear fashion as we do now – which limits what we can do – but in another way? So on the new earth you wouldn’t be any age at all, but all ages at once. And you’d never miss anything on tv. And could communicate with God all the time without hindrance. Someone’s probably going to come up with a really good theological argument for why this doesn’t work, but until they do I’m enjoying thinking about the fun I could have zooming around through history in my new non-time constrained body…!!!

  79. sanctuarybath says:

    Ha! Anna you were posting same time as me. The idea of an eternity of worship sounds more like hell, (not that we believe in that any more anyway after shelly’s post) but if we did I imagine it to be a bit like Spring Harvest with Todd Bentley as keynote speaker…. (shudders)

  80. Anna says:

    Aww well your idia of heaven sounds like alot more fun :D
    No idea who Todd Bentley is. Im in the youthy group thingies at springy. Though Im guessing you dont like him, haha! Hopefully they wont have sermons in heaven. Ive nothing against sermons its just I reeeaaally hope that heaven isn’t like eternal church. That’ll be worse than just worship!

  81. Ben says:

    If the New Earth (heaven) is something my small mind imagine then I’ll be disappointed…

  82. Ben says:

    If the New Earth (heaven) is somethine my small mind can imagine then I’ll be disappointed…

  83. Ben says:

    Won’t heaven still include work? but the kind we enjoy…

  84. Ben says:

    Last point tonight. I’ve read that Revelation 4 is often seen as a very of what our final destination (Heaven/New Earth) looks like, but it is better seen as how the Church is viewed in the heavenly (spiritual realm). This fits with the structure of the letter

    Isn’t it great that the church that can sometimes been a bit dysfunctional is viewed in this by God.

  85. Forrest says:

    Re: #75 by Carole –>
    “If God lived among his people – that is a lot of people. If I wanted to speak to him would it mean having to push my way through several billion sycophantic groupies (like trying to have a word with the priest at coffee, only worse!)”

    Might be pretty easy actually, though in a way we can not totally comprehend at this point in our seen world, as God, I think – it’s what has been taught and there’s scripture to back it up, is non-corporeal spirit and has his presence everywhere all at once: even when manifesting his glory in one specific location.

    How long is eternity?
    I don’t know.
    But it’s probably a safe wager that even half of eternity is forever.

    Thing that makes it hard to comprehend and even accept God at times is that His being, his existing, is so very incredibly incomprehensibly different from ours that we just have to kind of say ‘Okay. I can’t wrap the old grey matter around that but will go on and accept that that’s the way it is.’

  86. Forrest says:

    On the matter of coming to God through Christ without knowing his name ->
    Native American references to the “Great Spirit” and some about “Grandfather” lead me to wonder how many people recognized and had faith in the one whose name they did not know.
    In a somewhat different manner than Abraham, but along a similar track.
    Being so very connected to the land and nature that is God’s creation, how could at least some people not find close relationship with its creator?

  87. Forrest says:

    Re: #73 by Shelly
    “The Concordant Literal New Testament says he was in “the unseen”.”

    Hmm . . . would that be where our idea of ghosts comes from?
    Does sometimes the unseen merge with ‘the seen’ for an odd moment?
    By chance?
    By design?

    Several people in our apartment building, my wife among them, have reported seeing a ghost lady and two ghost cats.

    Didn’t Jesus himself say something like there are more things unseen than seen?

    “Young’s Literal Translation” – that sounds like one worth getting.

  88. Forrest says:

    Re: #77 by Anna
    “Or is heaven outside time with God?”

    That’s my understanding of it, be that right or misguided.

    You know how physicsts and UFO folks talk of alternate dimensions?
    God in heaven is exhibit A as far as I’m concerned.

    Which brings to mind my bible-thumping Fundy Father-in-Law who says there is no such thing as an alternate dimension – that’s satanic deception – and so is anything other than KING JAMES.
    Oh really, Raymond? So you’d agree that heaven is a satanic deception?

  89. jonbirch says:

    “Native American references to the “Great Spirit” and some about “Grandfather” lead me to wonder how many people recognized and had faith in the one whose name they did not know.” yes indeed.

    great conversation girls and boys. am stunned by the quality and thoughtfulness in these comments. thank you all very much. :-)

  90. Mimou says:

    Interesting stuff and comments.. Especially what you said Jon at 23. In a way it is more comforting to think that something just dies, stops existing than that it is suffering forever. I would much rather have that option for my non-christian friends/family… Though that would still mean tears and loss for me, needing for Him to wipe those tears from my eyes.. That’s what I understood anyway by your words there.

    Also, care to elaborate more on this? ->

    “i think the usual evangelical line on ‘nobody comes to the father but through me’ is entirely limiting. they think they know what that means… but why is it not possible to come to god through christ without ever hearing his name? of course it is possible… entirely possible.”

    Thanks :)

  91. jonbirch says:

    you’re welcome mimou. :-) you know, i don’t think salvation is in any way dependent on whether you label yourself a ‘christian’ or not, or whether you’ve signed up to the abc of faith that some traditions have adopted so they can feel confident about who’s in and who’s out. i think that’s all nonsense. i think god is the judge and he’ll decide everything… not you, me, or clever theologians.
    years ago in my teens i prayed for a lad i knew who got stabbed to death on his foreign holiday. to my knowledge he wasn’t a christian, i’m not sure i even liked him that much, but nevertheless i felt drawn to pray for him after i heard of his death on the news. i hated to think that that was it for him. if i thought that about someone i didn’t like much, i ask myself… how much more must god feel for this young man who he loves to bits. i leave it to god, yet can’t help thinking my prayers were not in vain. i trust god to know what’s best… and sometimes i believe i can trust my instincts. maybe one day i’ll find out what god did.

    which leads me on to that good question of jf’s.
    “What about all the children who died too young to know their own beliefs? Do I want a God who created Hell for those who have had no chance to know Him?”
    my answer to this is a definite ‘no’… i don’t want a god like that. a god that sends jewish children to hell when they have been gassed to death in a concentration camp would be a god worse than hitler… and i would not want to spend eternity with a god like that whatever incentives he offered me. fortunately, jesus shows us what god thinks of children. a god who suffers the children to come unto him and suffers me too (a lot more to suffer with me i’m afraid) is a god worth investigating.
    there are plenty of children and adults with learning difficulties severe enough never to have heard in the regular way about jesus… i reckon, in fact i’d be prepared to bet, that these men and women are closer to the creator than the rest of us. i can’t prove it, but i believe it.

  92. jonbirch says:

    btw… i may have said it before, but at the risk of repeating myself… i don’t believe me or anyone else is going to burn in hell for all eternity… i believe that to be thoroughly unbiblical and a load of old hogwash.

  93. jonbirch says:

    carole 60… you totally crack me up! :-)

  94. Pete Rehn says:

    i have a bad joke in mind since im not always entirely fond of this life of mine; i thought that martyrs are quite liked in heaven. So when im done repenting in rags with sand in my hair, done baptised in water and spirit, id hire somone anonymously to put a gun to my head and tell me to deny christ. of course id refuse and be left with a nice exit? ok this is bad heresy and mockery but i cant help my stupid mind sometimes. honestly though, i wouldnt mind going round the world throwing bibles in peoples heads and preaching from david pawsons “the normal christian birth” until kingdom come. but in that case i suppose id be martyred anyways.

    So now im left with 2 questions;
    anyone have a gun or does someone know how long ´till kingdom come?
    hehe

  95. Pete Rehn says:

    oh and beware of weird christians.

  96. Robb says:

    Does that situation of legalistic wrangling not allow for “I did not know you”?

  97. Pete Rehn says:

    ok… maybe im not in a hurry. just yet. truth hits like a ball of led in my conscience. now why did i have to write all this stuff? i think too much anyways, dear Lord forgive me. my comment on the new cartoon is much more encouraging…

  98. janetp says:

    Clearly, I should have skipped bible study group last night and just hung out on ASBO. Ok, I don’t really mean that – it was a good discussion at bsg, but look what I missed!

    Fascinating discussion everybody. It’s given me loads of food for thought.

    Clare (78/9): Great idea! I think that’s probably the closest I could get to what I think it would be like, but it took you saying it for me to figure out what I (might) think. Nothing new there! :)

    Carole (60): Off topic, but an excellent question. ;)

    Robb (64): “Something to chew over whilst you ponder your dilemma…” I’m torn between ‘hahahahaha’ and ‘eeugh’! :lol

    Steve (67): I’m with Carole – it’s a lovely story. :)

    I’d love to know more about the Christianity-evolutionary psychology relationship – I’d not heard of it before.

  99. janetp says:

    “:lol” – OK, what happened to the laughing smiley?

  100. sarah says:

    91 Jon, There was a girl in my own church with the “mind” of a 5 year old but the spirit of an old old person – suffice to say she pointed the way to God for a lot of us.

    Sas x

  101. Caz says:

    You missed a : off the end janet…. :lol:

  102. Robb says:

    I did BSG last night too. They made it to Earth. ;)

  103. janetp says:

    :lol:

  104. janetp says:

    Thanks Caz.

  105. zefi says:

    Which deno are you from again?
    :P

  106. Chris F says:

    91 Jon I agree about learning diffs; my firstborn had downs and so a rather low IQ. But I believe her SQ (spiritual quotient) was pretty high! – blessed a LOT of people anyway before she died age 7

  107. jonbirch says:

    thank you chris f. i really do believe that it is we so-called ‘normal’ ones who very often are handicapped when it comes to relating to god. your wonderful daughter is proof that god does not require iq for relationship, just beautiful honesty… i can almost hear god saying, “just bring yourself.”

  108. Robb says:

    The kingdom of God belongs to such as these!

  109. Steve Lancaster says:

    91, 100, 106-8: If you get the chance, and haven’t already, check out the L’Arche foot-washing services at Greenbelt.

    I had the great privilege to meet and work with Jean Vanier and L’Arche after uni, and he’s still the formative influence on me.

    He founded L’Arche in the early 1960s when he invited people with learning disabilities to live with him. These communities spread (his books on community are wonderful). Henri Nouwen spent the last years of his life in one.

    Jonny Baker name-checked Jean in a recent post on community – http://jonnybaker.blogs.com/jonnybaker/2008/06/community.html

    98. Janet P: evolutionary psychology, together with cognitive neuroscience, forms the bedrock of popular science books about the mind like those by Steven Pinker. “The Blank Slate” is a good place to start – about the nature/ nurture debate. Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis” looks at evolutionary and positive psychology.

    The point is, writers in these subject areas have no difficulty exploring religious questions, but, outside of conventional apologetics, I don’t see much Christian work addressing their findings. The rules of the game have changed as a result of these sciences – and absolutely not in a reductive way – but only if Christians genuinely take on board their findings.

  110. Carole says:

    You doing GB this year, then, Steve?

  111. Mimou says:

    Hmm, I know that for sure that God loves each one of us to bits. But do you mean Jesus is not needed for salvation? What was Jesus about, what do you think? Do you think salvation is needed? What is salvation needed from?

    Just interested to hear your view.

    I totally agree with I can’t say who’s in “Heaven” and who not – it’s up to God.. we can’t know all.

    My brother wasn’t a hugely “I have devoted my life to God” and a hugely church-going kind of a guy, but I know he had some beliefs, and he wanted to live life with integrity, he was human with his faults too but when I saw him last August (after he had died) he had a smile on his face and he looked peaceful. I thought if he has a smile on your face (And he died in an accident) he must be in a peaceful place. With Jesus, I hope.

  112. Mimou says:

    his face even..

  113. jonbirch says:

    hi mimou. i believe that jesus is very much needed for salvation. just that i see no reason to expect jesus now to be any less surprising than he was then… and i don’t think that evangelical (and other’s) assumptions about coming to god through christ to be necessarily correct. one could easily know christ having never been introduced to him it seems to me.
    i am very sorry to hear about your brother. that must be very hard. i believe you should have peace regarding where your brother is now. this i believe is very much where the abc of coming to faith falls down and fails to even address the complexities of it all.
    although no expert, i believe your brother will be very much at peace… and i also wish you and the rest of your family much peace too. god bless you friend. :-)

  114. sarah says:

    Yes Jon.

  115. Carole says:

    Mimou, that must be a very comforting thing for you to remember in the midst of personal tragedy. When my mum died earlier in the year, after being unconscious for days and breathing laboriously, at the second of her death she opened her eyes – not the watery eyes of the dying woman we’d seen earlier in the day, but the clear blue eyes of a new born child and a beatific smile came to her face. She was a down-to-earth woman of very simple but earnest faith. If you had mentioned the word theology to her she would have responded with, “thee-what?” But that image of the moment of her death has sustained my family through the dark days. Mimou, it’s my personal belief that there are far more things in this universe and beyond than we could ever understand in a million lifetimes of study but that occasionally God gives each of us, on a personal level, deep, meaningful signs of what is to be. All we have to do is notice them. You won’t find their meaning in scripture. Just maybe your brother’s smile was one of those signs.

  116. Carole says:

    Here’s my simple analogy for those who ‘do not know Jesus’. I booked a flight. I was told I must check in my details online seven days in advance of the journey. I didn’t. I arrived at the airport and explained that I had not checked in online and, at minor inconvenience to herself and to the other passengers, the airline employee did it there and then, at the point of departure. It took a few seconds. For the odd person, it was not a hassle. If everyone had done it, it might have impacted on the efficiency of the organisation. Sorry, I need simple pegs to hang my understanding on.

    I wonder how God looks at it when we argue the toss over who is in and who is out? I have been working with a bunch of 7-year olds lately. Sometimes I might ask someone to do something. Then another will say, “But Miiiss…” and tell me why I can’t do whatever. They don’t actually know my background story for asking and their darling little noddles can’t think beyond the whys and wherefores of what has been done before. Perhaps we are sometimes a bit like those 7 year-olds…

  117. sarah says:

    I don’t care about `ins` and `outs`. It just tickles my ego until it becomes too big to do anything useful with. It’s about fear.

  118. Mimou says:

    Yeh, I thought it was most annoying when people where asking me after his death whether he was a believer! As in, if not, in their way of thinking what a believer is, he won’t be.

    I am glad we all got to see him. He was bautiful. His mother (we have a different mother) said he looked more beautiful in his deathbed than alive! And like you said Carole, it does and has comforted. That smile gave me peace.

    Thanks for your reply too, Jon.

  119. jonbirch says:

    cheers mimou! :-)

    carole… have you always been wise, or have you been practising a lot? your 7 year old analogy is brilliant.

  120. Carole says:

    Jon, I don’t know if I have much in the way of wisdom and the only thing I practise a lot is reflecting on my many mistakes… :)

  121. jonbirch says:

    maybe that is why you have wisdom. :-)

  122. chaino says:

    “one could easily know christ having never been introduced to him it seems to me.”

    Romans 10:14How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

  123. dave says:

    To me, it’s the Christian who believes he can lose his salvation.

  124. Mimou says:

    Hmm, I’m revisiting this thread bcos.. Came across in my Bible Reading these: Matthew 25 verses 41 and 46, where Jesus seems to be speaking (in my NIV anyway) of eternal fire where goats go with the devil and sheep go with Him. And He talks about eternal punishment vs. eternal life. What do you think?

    Respects’ :) Mimosa

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