One my favorite take always from my Clinical Pastoral Education experience is the recognition that the Pastor/minister/spiritual person is expected to be, as Christ, a “person of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” I often use this line now as a recognition of one the functions of a chaplain – we are familiar with the journeys of suffering (or at least ought to be) and can help those that are traveling it as the wilderness guide helps those wandering through the unknowns of grief.
I am often asked about the afterlife. Of course, I only know what everyone knows – it’s a fog – no one really knows, they can just interpret the vague references in the Bible and other sacred literature.
I’ve started reading NT Wright’s Surprised By Hope which looks into the Christian orthodox view and seeks to help others understand.
He makes this observation:
“…the First World War produced not only a great deal of sudden death but also much reflection on its meaning. Some historians have suggested that belief in hell, already under attack from theologians in the nineteenth century, was one the the major casualties of the Great War. There had been so much hell on earth that people couldn’t believe that God would create such a place hereafter as well.”
What a great example of life impacting theology. As they struggled to make sense of the idea that God would further punish someone who suffered so greatly in life impacted how they then thought about the afterlife.
I wonder if levels of suffering impact a person’s conclusions about things like “eternal conscience suffering.”
It also has me wondering about how Liberation Theology had concepts of Heaven rendered as liberation from the oppressor whereas the general American paradigm sees Heaven as a place to get the opulence denied in life. Streets of gold, mansions on a hillside…