Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Book Review

If Universalism is True: Why Jesus Christ Must Not Be God

I would prefer not to believe in a literal hell. I have always accepted that hell exists because that is what I was taught. It is one of the tenets of my Christian faith but I neglect to give it much thought. Perhaps I repress it. Come to think of it, it is rarely mentioned in our churches anymore. It is one of those uncomfortable, mysterious subjects that I choose to leave in God’s hands.

A friend suggested that a group of us read If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland, and discuss these ideas. I read the first four chapters of the book in a rosy glow. I loved the emphasis on God’s grace and was elated at the suggestion that there isn’t a hell after all. As I started chapter five my rosy glow transformed into a dark cloud. When the author stated, “I believe Jesus had a special relationship with God and an important role in human history, though I’m no longer persuaded this required his divinity,” my faith went through a period of crisis. Although I continued to agree with many of the ideas expressed in the book, it no longer held the same credibility for me. I cannot disbelieve that Jesus Christ is God incarnate; it is too much woven into the fabric of my faith and I cling to Him as my Savior.

This book basically boils down to being another apologetic for Unitarian Universalism dogma. Their creed is that they don’t have a creed. But adherents are united on the denial of Jesus Christ as God and the rejection of the Bible as exclusive truth.

One area in which the book is lacking is the treatment of the subject of evil. The authors make too light of it. A big question that arose out of my reading surrounds the idea of atonement. The authors reject the idea that sin must be paid for. Early on they ask, “Why must sins be paid for?” They also claim that the Israelites sacrificed animals not because God instructed them to do so but because the cultures around them were doing it. I admit that the Old Testament is very difficult to understand but if God objected to his chosen people offering sacrifices because it is cruel and unnecessary, wouldn’t he have had made this obvious to them? Instead it seems the opposite. The need for atonement and animal sacrifices was central to their worship.

The authors tend to show grace and compassion to those who commit crimes and do great evil because, as they explain, often these people are raised in horrific abusive situations. This is understandable. On the other hand they show a callousness to those who have been sinned against. They expect victims to be compassionate and forgiving and give examples of those who have done so. But I contend that it is not easy for a person who has been victimized. The authors seem to ignore their pain. They imply, “No big deal. Forgive and get over it. God does.” I’m not saying that revenge or severe punishment is the only way—I’m just asking, what do we do with evil—of which there is plenty?

If I were to offer a theory on universalism, it would go like this: I believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate and the only way to heaven. God saves all people but He does it on the basis of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. A sincere, good Christian, Muslim, Hindu or representative of any other faith will not get into heaven based on good works and devout beliefs but because Jesus died for him/her like he did for everyone else in the world.

I still don’t know about hell. It is difficult to ignore the many scriptural references to hell and especially those uttered by Jesus. It is one of those areas of my Christian faith that I cannot tie up in a neat, pretty knot. And if I were given proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a hell, would I reject God on that basis? Mystery is a part of my faith. God is way bigger than me and on this side of the grave it is impossible to understand everything about Him. But I do believe that God is love and bestows an abundance of mercy and grace on the world. I trust Him to do the right thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My First Crash of 2011

I have been spending the past month at our ski condominium in Keystone, CO. I love the mountains and I have a passion for skiing. There has been an abundance of snow this year and I am enjoying this white, frosty winter wonderland.  In an effort to carefully pace myself, I made a plan to ski one run every other day. I have a season pass and although I cannot comfortably ski a lot in a given day, I planned to ski many days doing that little bit. It takes about an hour to ride the gondola to the top of the mountain and ski a nice long run down. It makes for a pleasant outing—a bit of exercise, fresh air and an opportunity to do something I love.

This was working fine until five days ago. My young, energetic nephew was up from Denver and came to Keystone to ski with us. It was supposed to be my alternate day; my rest day from skiing. But because I was feeling pretty good and I didn’t want to let him down or be embarrassed from the little bit of skiing I can do, I skied three runs. What is so little to a person of normal health can make a CFS sufferer crash big time. And my crash came in the form of a nasty upper respiratory infection. At least this is my strong suspicion. It could be a coincidence that I caught this cold at the same time I overdid the skiing. However it has happened before when I overdo. Sometimes the crash takes the form of that ‘hit by a truck feeling’ fatigue that sends me to bed but it can also be a bad cold. In either case the fatigue and pain slow me down considerably.
How I regret stepping outside of my energy envelope. I am allowing my body the rest that it is demanding and plan to be more prudent in the future.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


My quality of life has improved since I’ve started doing things the Bruce Campbell way. I have more good days and actually experience times of that delicious feeling of well being. And it follows that when I have good days I have good nights. I sleep better when I have good days.

It is a discipline, believe me. There are days when I am tempted to abandon the plan and skip my naps and extend myself. But I know now that that would be a big mistake.

One of my major goals is to avoid crashes. They are a major stressor on my body and I don’t do myself any favors by allowing myself to endure them. I believe they exacerbate the illness of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and prevent recovery. Circumstances may come up in life when I am forced to expend more energy than is healthy for me but as much as possible I want to pace and rest on a regular basis to prevent crashes. I trust that this will result in a steady increase in improved health and recovery.

A few observations:

1) Good pacing and resting allows for that groggy feeling after a nap. When in the throes of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I never feel groggy, only drained and sick. Groggy and sleepy feels more normal, healthier.

2) I have discovered that there is an art to conserving energy. I have to be constantly creative to find ways to ‘stay within the energy envelope.’ For example, taking my dog for a walk on leash can be very tiring. She pulls me more than I want to go in her doggie quest to vent her energy. Instead I drive to a a dog park or a spot where I can let her run free. I keep treats in my pocket to lure her when she wanders too far away. Thus she has opportunity to run and get the exercise she needs while I can walk slowly and leisurely.

3) I know I am feeling better when I feel motivated. Motivation is linked to energy and zest for life. When I lack motivation it is a sign that I am not getting enough rest.

4) Another sign of health is the enjoyment of music. Music is merely noise when I feel sick.

4) I need to find ways to help friends and family understand my inability to keep up with them. Most of the time I appear healthy and they don’t have a clue as to the pain I am experiencing.

After ten years I am finally learning to accept this illness. Not that I won’t continue to search for healing but I have learned that to have a sense of well being that I must learn to live within certain constraints. Frequent rest and the acceptance that I am unable to do certain things must be a part of my life. Sometimes this is very hard but at the same time it provides wonderful times of feeling good and normal again. Who wouldn’t want that? And why I have fought it so in the past? There must be some deep psychological reasons. For one, I wrestle against feelings of guilt. Am I being too indulgent by allowing myself all this rest? But my job right now is to get better and that is where I must put my focus.