Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 28, 2012

Our first trip in our new car (other than to the supermarket) was to Liverpool yesterday, to go to church there. Except we never made it.

We did have maps this time. We even had a map so large in scale, so detailed, that it took three whole inches to cover one mile. And yes, we did study it in advance. I carefully marked out our route in red ink, and we went over it together before setting out.

We even departed for the 20-minute drive an hour before church was to begin.

There was a surprise, though. While the map labeled every street and road only by name, the road signs labeled them only by number. So our illustrious navigator never could be sure exactly where we were on the map and our illustrious driver made one wrong turn on a roundabout – toward “Liverpool Airport”, instead of just “Liverpool”.

We found ourselves on a motorway (the UK equivalent of an interstate highway) heading more or less back where we’d come from, according to the road signs, our three maps useless. We gave up and found our way home – without losing our good spirits this time, though, I’m pleased to add. It was a radiant, warm day and the English countryside was sparkling and quaint and charming, and we enjoyed our first ride in spite of missing our destination.

We are going to try again before next Sunday. With another map I hope to find and buy today.

In the late afternoon, we did make it to Julia and David’s house. Demetrios already knew the way of course, but I called them up anyway to get directions, which turned out to be essential. We especially rejoiced to see their boys again, Demetrios’ godson James, with his fiancée, Kim; and Nick. Julia and David’s nephew Rob was there also, with his girlfriend Jo. We all had a barbecue in the lovely sunken garden, and Demetrios and I stayed until 7:30, as the sun was beginning to decline. (I don’t know when it set, but we’re so far north it was still only twilight at 10:00.)

Here’s another snippet from the book we are studying on Tuesday nights, Love Wins by Rob Bell:

* * * begin quote * * *

Several years ago I heard a woman tell about a high-school student who was killed in a car accident. Her daughter was asked by a Christian if the young man who had died was a Christian. She said that he told people he was an atheist. This person then said to her, “So there’s no hope then.”

No hope?
Is that the Christian message?
“No hope”?
Is that what Jesus offers the world?
Is this the sacred calling of Christians – to announce that there’s no hope?

The death of this high-school student raises questions about what’s called the “age of accountability.” Some Christians believe that up to a certain agai children aren’t held accountable for what they believe or who they believe in, so if they die during those years, they go to be with God. But then when they reach a certain age, they become accountable for their beliefs, and if they die, they to go be with God only if they have said or done or believed the “right” things. Among those who believe this, the age of accountability is generally considered to be sometime around age twelve.

This belief raises a number of other issues, one of them being the risk each new life faces. If every new baby being born could grow up to not believe the right things and go to hell forever, then prematurely terminating a child’s lie anytime from conception to twelve years of age would actually be the loving thing to do, guaranteeing that the child ends up in heaven, and not hell, forever. Why run the risk?

And that raises another question about this high-school student’s death. What happens when a fifteen-year-old atheist dies? Was there a three-year window when he could have made a decision to change his eternal destiny? Did he miss his chance? What if he had lived to sixteen, and it was in that sixteenth year he came to believe what he was supposed to believe? Was God limited to that three-year window, and if the message didn’t get to the young man in that time, well, that’s just unfortunate?

* * * end quote * * *

Oh, yeah, I remember that bit about the "age of accountability”; I somehow picked it up at around the age of ten-and-a half or 11 and it’s what launched me on my search for the “True Church”. I was confirmed (Episcopalian) on the day after my 12th birthday.

By about my 22nd birthday I had long given up on the naïve idea of the existence of any “True Church.” I

t took until about my 33rd birthday to learn she did exist after all.

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