Pub Theology

What is Pub Theology?

Some of the most important moments in the history of the church took place in the pub. Luther kick started the reformation over a few pints with his friends. The Church of England was started in the white horse tavern in Cambridge. Many of the best Methodist hymns like ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling’ were inspired by pub music. And some of the best conversations take place in the pub.

The format is simple. Beer conversation and God. Everything is up for discussion, no assumptions, no barriers to entry. If you are going to get upset because someone questions something that is important to you maybe this isn’t for you, but if you think that whatever might be true ought to be able to stand up to being questioned maybe it is.

Pub theology meets occasionally in the Angelic Pub on a Wednesday evening. Drop us a line if you want to come along. And in lockdown we have gone online. Pub theology from the comfort of your own home.

25 thoughts on “Pub Theology

  1. Couple of interesting articles recently from the grauniad’s website:

    The second made me laugh, and the first – well, it’s an intreresting twisty turny sort of argument.

    “Faith is not supposed to be about signing up to a set of propositions but practising a set of principles”. All well and good, but it goes on to mention that Karen Armstrong, a historian of religion, has for this reason been drafting a ‘Charter on Compassion for all faiths’. Seems to defeat the point somewhat, and i’m not sure who would sign up to it (or why).

    What really interested me about both articles though, is that for all the talk about getting rid of religion, or how irrelevant it is in today’s world etc etc, how much influence religion and faith actually have in peoples’ lives. I don’t just mean in a negative or throwback sense, like the people so keen to proclaim the irrelevance and fantasy of baptism that they see the need to reassure themselves of this fact with a certificate, but also in the way in which thoughtful atheists or agnostics approach life’s mysteries and wonders with the same framework (and sometimes conclusions) that Christian thinkers have done for centuries.

    So where does this leave the “cuddly friend named Jesus”? Perhaps in the context of “arguing about the existence of such human creations”, it leaves him with quite a lot to say, actually. Or perhaps it leaves us with quite a lot to say, with actions as well as words?

  2. “Having said that it is the film medium that can leave a stronger longer lasting (sounds like an andrex ad) effect on the mind and minds eye”

    Partly why, as a medium, it often seems more capable of soliciting an emotional response rather than a cerebral one. (And for me, for various reasons, faith is generally more of a cerebral exercise than an emotional one)… could be a great medium for brainwashing though! People realised that pretty early on in film history… you only need to look at films like “Birth of a Nation” as a classic example!!

    On another note… following my recent observation that Mark’s sermons seem to frequently correlate with subjects discussed at Pub Theology, I thought I’d raise a question on Romans Chapter 1!!

    “16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

    18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.[i] 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20) For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (New Living Translation)

    So is it possible to achieve faith in God, without ever having heard of Jesus?? Perhaps you could even “see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” and label it something else… Allah, Brahma, Dagda, Apollo, Odin, etc etc.

    Does this contradict “I am the way the truth and the life”?? Or if you believe in the above and label it Vishnu instead of Jesus… does that make salvation suddenly off the menu because you didn’t know the “right” name to give to it?

    Ultimately… does this bit of Romans suggest that faith is not dependent on the language used to describe it and how does that impact on the way we understand and think about other bits of scripture?

  3. Interesting comments Ruth and an interesting question set by you Monsieur Preston…

    Having just read the book Kite Runner and having watched the film I would say that the book conveys more and makes me feel more involved and fed, more informed. Having said that it is the film medium that can leave a stronger longer lasting (sounds like an andrex ad) effect on the mind and minds eye that potentially has the ability to over shadow the effects of literature. Though I believe that the effects of literature go far deeper though whether than can be effectively retrived by human beings like images is another matter.

    Oh and for the record, I think TV has a load of old bollocks on it these days! The the lottery program can often be stimulating and educational.

    I think I’ll stop there in case I eclipse the rant queen Elenore by continuing further and flapping my arms about the place.

  4. I think film is a problematic medium, because of its very nature. It lacks the personal relationship with the reader. Broadcast media are much better as they tend to allow you to develop more of a personal relationship of trust with your reader.

    The other danger with a medium such as film is that it is great at soliciting an emotional response, which often can be unhelpful when trying to understand matters of theology, philosophy and ideology. You don’t want someone to just jump on a bandwagon… what you get then is an assimilation not a disciple. You want someone to think through, and to examine things properly and to understand and make up their own mind.

    The nature of broadcast media is that you tend to not get so absorbed in it. You question what you see, you can phone in, text message the broadcaster, send an email. It’s interactive and discussive. So if you wanted to use a medium for that kind of thing TV would be good. Unfortuately the way christians have tended to try and use broadcast media across things like the god channel, premier radio, ucb, is far more dictative and like propaganda dissemination rather than a discussion. They tend to take a traditional evangelical line, and you-must-not-shift-from-this kind of attitude and ideology… which not only limits how much you could do with such fantastic mediums in terms of encouraging discussion and growth, but also… it really p*sses me off!

    I know I’m biassed towards broadcast media to some extent, I love it. But in terms of the nature of these different mediums, that would better suit what you’re suggesting. Whether there is really a market for it… well thats another matter entirely.

  5. Pondering the significance of the popularity of the film blog on this site.
    We have quite a strong literary culture in this country, but are we more responsive to visual stimuli when confronted with big ideas?
    Previously the masses had passion plays, epic songs and majestic art and architecture to convey a sense of the sacred. Is film a modern equivalent? Where does this leave traditional preaching and the evangelical emphasis on the word? Should we be making more of such mediums to convey the message and foster debate? Can/will film be able to effectively disciple followers of Christ? What would Church look like it if could?
    Should I have posted this on the Film Club blog?

  6. Here is the article – it is by a friend of mine called Jonathan Bartley who works for a christian think tank called ecclesia.

    Christianity: “wanted and never tried”

    OK, so it’s a bit of a cop out to say that Christianity would be great if only it were practiced properly – but I am far from the first to suggest it. G K Chesterton expressed it better when he proposed that Christianity had not been tried and found wanting… rather it had been wanted and never tried. Gandhi too, when asked once why he rejected the religion said simply: “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    Even the most cursory glance at the historical engagement of churches in public life shows that the love of enemies, forgiveness and ‘turning the other cheek’ urged by Jesus has been conspicuous by its absence. But many do not trace the beginning of the incongruity between the message and its outworking to the foundation of the faith. Instead they suggest that the real conflict began around the Fourth Century. Understanding what happened then, can shed quite a bit of light on what’s going on now.

    It was the Roman Emperor Constantine who first brought Christianity to the heart of the empire. In so doing he left Christianity with an embarrassing dilemma. The early Christians had tended to take Jesus’ words at face value. Many had refused to serve in the military, and believed in a form of equality and justice which was viewed as subversive to the social order. The state had little in common with the faith. It was after all the oppressive institution that had put their founder to death, and subsequently unleashed waves of persecution against his followers.

    But Christians now had to find ways of justifying their new position at its heart. They had to explain their complicity in torture, imprisonment and war. They had to work out why their part in slavery and the death penalty was suddenly acceptable.

    The result was some very nifty theological footwork which involved explaining away or sidelining Jesus’ more difficult teachings. Some labelled them as naïve and impractical for the business of government. A public-private split ensued, in which Jesus’ ethics were relegated to the private realm of personal relationships, or another world after death. A different form of Christianity, it was argued, was required for public life.

    The rest, as they say, is history. But 1700 years later, it is the Christianity of Christendom, rather than that which preceded it, that seems ill-suited to public life. And slowly it is dawning on many in the churches that Christianity is faced with a choice. It can hold onto its outdated approaches and be pushed out of public life completely – or it can think once again, as it did in the Fourth Century, about how it relates to the world around it.

    The latter option is more likely, if nothing else, for reasons of expediency which have governed its approaches in the past. It’s just a shame that Chesterton and Gandhi aren’t around to see it.

  7. Oh dear – get well soon.

    In terms of relationship to others, paul makes a contrast between the ‘passionate lusts of the heathen’ and a quiet life that wins the respect of outsiders (v11&12).

    I think the passage in 1 corinthians 3:12-15 is helpful in understanding the consequences of living in such a way that is not worth of God.

  8. In short….. Philadelphia…. right? A love for our brothers and sisters…. a love for the believers. This is how to please God? So what about behaviour involving others who are not believers? Not just talking about the Sex thing, but also about all sorts of behaviour?

    We are not unjustified through this…. so is there a consequence of not pleasing God? Is there a purpose to trying to please God, is this the answer to living a life in the fullness of Christ, that we aim to please God?

    As you might have guessed, not at work today, am in Bed with Man Flu!!! Watched 2 DVDs already and getting bored with not doing anything!

  9. Hey Pete, good question.
    Grace is a wonderfully dangerous concept. Always has been. If you preach it properly it should sound like total freedom to do anything.

    The truth though is that grace is the mechanism by which we are restored to relationship with God and his people. It is being made part of a family.

    And in the context of a family there are genuine responsibilities to each other based on love.

    And that is what paul is talking about in 1 Thes 4. I suspect you pick up on the sexual immorality bit – rightly so – but the context of it is (v6) ‘wronging one another or taking advantage’. The concern about such behaviour is what it does to other people, and to the community as a whole.

    We need to move the focus away from what is best for me towards doing what is best for others. Less me, more we.

  10. Hello Mark,

    Just wondered if you could clear something up for me.

    We heard from Richard at the weekend away (if my understanding was correct), that there was nothing we could do about our Sin and further there is nothing we should do about our Sin. This was based on the premis that our Sin no longer exists because Jesus died on the cross to pay for our Sin… hence our Sin no longer exists. Ok so from a Justification point of view there is nothing new here… we are saved by grace and faith not through our own acts. I am all cool with this bit.

    However, I just wanted to know what you thought of what we should do about our Sinful Acts (behaviour) from a Sanctification point of view (1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 vs 1- 11).


  11. Not sure if the sarchasm thing holds up, as it starts with “Jesus told this story to his disciples”

    Felt obliged to pull my bible off the shelf and look it up in my New Living Translation. (which I thought might offer a different light.)

    Here goes…

    Verse 8 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the citizens of this world are more shrewd than the godly are. I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.”

    Well. That seems pretty straight forward to me!


    Looking forwards to Pub Theology this week. And is the film club thingy weekly or monthly? I’m really interested in coming to that, and there seems to be some good films getting picked.

  12. Good question Tom, I like this story. Jesus is giving an example of how people of this world are shrewd. 8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Note that Jesus says he is ‘a dishonest manager’ so it is not a commendation of his actions, but a recognition of his shrewdness. He is shrewd because he sees what is going to happen in the future and acts in his own best interests.

    So the application is that we should also be shrewd. We should see what is going to happen in the future and act in our own best interests. When the kingdom comes it money will be of no use, so we should use it ‘to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.’ It is like living in a country where the economy is on the brink of collapse – so you exchange all your local currency for Dollars (or probably euro’s these days). It is not suggesting that we can buy our way into heaven, but it most certainly is suggesting that good works in the life have an enduring value, so store up treasure in heaven by using your money to do good.

  13. NEW THREAD!!!!

    Now get your theological thiking caps on and tell me…..WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN?!?!!

    Luke 16 (NIV) The Parable of the Shrewd Manager
    1Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
    3″The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— 4I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
    5″So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
    6” ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
    “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’
    7″Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
    ” ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
    “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
    8″The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

    We got very confused last night at homegroup. ‘The Message’ makes it quite clear but we wondered if that was just his interpretation.
    Both the NIV and the GNB are far more ambiguous, esp in vv.8-9 when he’s banging on about using your wealth to make friends and get a nice welcome in heaven. Intriguingly, the New King James and the English Standard versions talk about FAILING in vs.9, not just ‘when it is gone’.
    We couldn’t come to any conclusion except when we read The Message but were not convinced. If it is about being wise and clever with the world and not being taken for a ride WHY DIDN’T HE JUST SAY SO?! And what about the ‘use worldly WEALTH’ in v.9? Perhaps that’s just translation. I think we should be told.
    Jane Love made what I thought was a brilliant suggestion that perhaps Jesus, in the presence of money-obsessed Pharisees, might have been being ironic – “oh yeah, I know what you can do – why not use worldly wealth to gain favour in this world? THAT will get you into heaven!” before hitting them with a ‘can’t serve both god and money’ sucker punch.

    I like it as an idea but does it hold up with the text? Let’s have your thoughts and insights please – is this a commandment to use money to make friends and influence people? Is life a popularity contest so we’ll get a rousing welcome in heaven? Is Jesus just taking the p***?!

    My head hurts…..

  14. Don’t know much about Greek (or biology etc), but I know my wines. I’m quite sure NT wine had less alcohol – just as i’m sure that much of the plonk we get on ‘half price amazing deals’ at Sainsbury’s has far too much – 14.5-15% is pretty common these days for wine from Chile and Australia etc, tho there is a move in winemaking (and drinking) to lower levels. Typical Claret (red bordeaux) is 12.5% – which is plenty. Many german wines are lower in alcohol.

    There are quite a few Kosher wines that are slightly sweet and lower in alcohol, but this is more to do with style than Jewishness – Kosher rules actually involve some pretty sound vineyard practices.

    More than likely the reason for NT wines being lower in alcohol than those today, apart from the recent trend to super-charged aussie blockbusters, is that winemaking techniques have evolved enormously and in the modern world we can produce far better quality wine with higher percentages. More alcohol – up to a point – in a wine means the structure of the drink holds better and the flavour improves. It’s for this reason that standard Bordeaux was eclipsed by ‘Bordeaux Superieur’ when it reached 12.5% – nowadays this is a bit of a ridiculous distinction but back in the day it was important as without fancy modern wineries and better vineyard management, it was only the better quality grapes in better years that could come up with this level.

    So let’s go back 2000 years when fermentation was all done by hand, with limited equipment and storage facilities, mostly using wild yeasts and not cloned strains that improve fermentation rates etc, and not grat big steel tanks with temperature controls….the very basicness of the operation means that you often would not achieve the same levels of alcohol that we are used to now.

    Having said all that this site offers some interesting insights into greek and roman drinking habits – including mixing with water (which would further dilute the alcohol content); a common practice until quite recently. I remember seeing a sign above an old wine bar on the city road proudly boasting of ‘pure’ wines (ie undiluted) from france etc.
    All of which I think is fascinating for the wine buff but fairly irrelevant when it comes to reading the bible. By all means get a delicious 8 or 9% german riesling and water it down further, but that’s really not the point of any reference to wine in the NT. Whether it’s 6% or 15%, the simple fact remains that if you drink too much you’ll fall over drunk. I can sip a 45% whisky and be more sober than if I drank a bottle of watered-down wine.

    Sorry for the long posts, it’s a subject dear to my heart!
    p.s. in terms of pouring olive oil and wine on a wound, it’s interesting to note that oil is what romans put in their wine bottles to preserve the liquid. today, we use a blanket of carbon dioxide and a cork.

  15. Hello Rhea, welcome to the site. I think you are right about the strength of wine, as it was often mixed with water to kill off any germs in the water.
    However I think the idea that the greek word ‘oinos’ might mean grape juice is a bit daft.
    As one writer put it…
    The Greek word used in John 2:1-11 for “wine” and in Paul’s command to Timothy to drink wine (I Timothy 5:23) is the term oinos. This same word appears in Ephesians 5:18 (“be not drunk with wine”) and Luke 10:34 (“and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine”).
    Can you get drunk on grape juice? Would you pour grape juice on a wound? Of course not! You get drunk on alcoholic wine and fermented wine would provide sufficient alcoholic content to serve as an antiseptic. The New Testament always refers to fermented wine. And how could the apostles stand to be accused of being drunk on grape juice (Acts 2:13-15)?

  16. Did you know that the word that is translated “wine” in the NT can refer to either alcoholic wine or non-alcoholic wine (ie, grape juice)? Also, did you know that ACTUAL wine in NT times had far less alcohol than most wines today? Just thought I would throw in those two facts…

  17. Hi. I’m interested in coming along. Is this actually on Tuesdays as my friend said he saw a flyer where it was on a different day.

    I find the discussions here really refreshing, as traditional church is something I’ve come to find difficult to get along with… just because I don’t want to be told what to think, I want a discussion and to explore different ideas.

  18. A wineo responds…

    Where did Jesus say he wouldn’t drink wine till he came back (and anyway that implies he’ll drink it when he does come back, and so abstaining for that reason sounds a bit to me like a muslim not drinking but looking forward to paradise where there will be ‘rivers of wine’ and ‘seven virgins’ to indulge in….clearly wine then isn’t evil but allah is a tease!)?

    I can’t find it in my online bible search…

    John the Baptist was never to touch alcohol (cf. Luke 1:15), but that’s never mentioned of Jesus…in fact later in the chapter (7:33-35) Jesus contrasts the abstaining John – who the people say is ‘posessed’ – with the ‘feasting and drinking’ Jesus…clearly implying drinking alcohol.

    from past conversations I reckon there is some confusion with the phrase ‘new wine’, which is often used in discussions of the coming kingdom. New wine in Luke 5.39 seems to be wine undergoing fermentation – which produces two main things from sugar; alcohol and carbon dioxide. In an old wineskin, then, the gas would burst the skin but a new wineskin would stretch to accommodate.

    Some people see ‘new wine’ as meaning grape juice – go to any vineyard at harvest time and you will probably toast the vintage with a glass of sticky sweet juice from the first press. I’m not sure about Jesus’ time, tho, or indeed if that’s really the point of the ‘new wine’ references – they seem to be used simply to make a point about the kingdon (and referencing numerous OT passages about tithing the ‘first fruits’ of your harvest – including the ‘new wine’) and not as a moral dictation.

    Moving beyond the gospels are various suggestions not to drink TOO MUCH wine – which sort of implies that it’s not the wine that’s the problem, but the amount we drink (Ephesians 5:18, 1 Timothy 3:8 etc..), while Romans 14:20-22 actually says you can do what you like…unless that’s a problem for your fellow christian (in which case Esther, it may be better to hold off while with your sister).

    Anyway, perhaps the thing to think about is whether we drink too much, wine or otherwise. we certainly live in quite an indulgent culture.

    I leave you with a quote from scripture…

    “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses”.

    1 Timothy 5:23

  19. Hey Esther,

    You probably want to handle it more gently than I am about to but it is total nonsense, total moralising nonsense.
    Back in the 18th century, when gin was plentiful and cheap – it was literally destroying the poor of London. There is a famous Hogarth illustration of ‘Gin Lane’ which you can see here.

    Alcohol was a cause of terrible social problems, and everyone knew that something had to be done. Two significant responses were made. One was the beginning of the widespead production of beer as a healthy alternative (there is a twin to Gin Lane called ‘Beer street‘ showing the benefits of drinking beer) but the other was the ‘Temperance’ movement which although not exclusively christian certainly was very popular amongst religious people. This was really the first time that not drinking alcohol was widely encouraged other than in extreme acetic religious groups. In fact I always enjoy the reference that John Wesley was happy to see methodists drink as much beer as they liked – but was very suspicious of Tea (which was new, and very expensive and indulgent at the time.)

    Why was alcohol so common and normal? It was because water was generally impure and the trick of boiling it to purify it was not commonly known. Whereas in China and Japan they boiled it and made tea, in the west (and in the middle east of Jesus day) we fermented it to make alcohol. Alcohol kills of bacteria. This is so innate to us that westerners have an enzyme in our bodies whose sole purpose is to digest alcohol, people from the far east don’t have this enzyme and so typically are severely effected by alcohol.

    So as for the Bible. Jesus obviously turned water in the finest wine (John 2), and then commands his disciples to use wine as the remembrance of his death in at the last supper. The idea that Jesus didn’t drink wine is idiotic. There was no such thing as non-alcoholic wine – the process of creating wine and then removing the alcohol is a very recent invention. So he commands us to remember him whenever we drink wine (which would have been every day for 1st century people).
    Clearly the Bible speaks about the dangers of drunkenness, which are not to be underestimated, and there are definitely benefits to times of abstinence, just as there is benefit in fasting from food, but the Bible is also suspicious of those who treat the body harshly and refuse meat and wine as if that was somehow more ‘spiritual’ Finally Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine for his weak stomach (1 Tim 5:23).


  20. Dear Mark,
    yes, it answers my question quite a lot, thanks.

    Now I have another question. It’s about a discussion me and my sister are having.
    She claims that Jesus drank no alcohol and that Jesus wanted us to drink no alcohol too.

    There are the chosen ones, like Samson (I thought), who were not aloud to drink alcohol, the Nazarien?
    And when Jesus came back to the disciples after the resurrection, he said he would drink no wine till he came back again.
    That are her arguments, and I first thought I would just let her be in her conviction,
    but she brings it up quite often and judges a lot of people for it too.
    And I don’t really like that.
    But her conviction is so strong I start wandering where she got it.

    Again, thank you very much for answering my question

  21. Hey esther –

    That is one of my favorite parts of the story! It gives me hope for people everywhere, even if they are not card carrying christians.

    So the theology is this. I’m not sure that ‘making a clear choice’ is the deciding factor. God looks upon the heart – not the outward behaviour. There are many people who believe all the right things – who’s theology is entirely orthodox – yet who’s hearts are not transformed by it, so it is possible to believe, and yet not be inwardly transformed. (James points out that demons believe and of course it does them no good – James 2:19).

    The fruit of saving faith is a right attitude towards God (and also self and neighbour). Without this fruit any faith is useless.

    So the possibility stands that people might have their theology all wrong – they may believe all the right things, and yet their hearts are inclined rightly towards God, self and neighbour – this is the picture CS Lewis is painting of the gentle, faithful, noble heathen, and it would apply to a muslim, or even an atheist. Paul hints at it in Romans 2 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

    The people of god are all those who God calls to himself, all those the spirit is at work in – and we may be pleasantly surprised to discover that his kingdom is far bigger than we realise, and is not confined to the church, even though the church is the primary expression of the kingdom.

    Is making a decision important? Yes. But that decision to follow Christ only has value if you then actually do follow christ, and C.S. Lewis would suggest that there are many who are actually following Christ who don’t realise it, just as there are many who claim to be following Christ who in reality are doing nothing of the sort.

    Does that start to answer your question?

  22. So, in the last battle, at the very end, all the children walk through the door of the cabin and find Aslan there in Aslans land.
    And there is also a soldier from the ‘bad’ side who told Alsan that he had always served Tash.
    There, Aslan tells him that every good thing he did in name of Tash, he actually did it in name of Aslan.
    And every bad thing you would do in name of Aslan, you’d actually be doing it for Tash.
    That got me confused.
    I often agree with CS Lewis, but with this case, didn’t you had to make a clear choice?
    I would like it that way, but it seems too easy.
    And if it’s not that way, why would CS Lewis use it in his book?

  23. I wanted to ask you a question about hell – just something to throw into the debate really. What do you make of the passage in Luke 16 verses 19f, where Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, with the rich man calling out from the place of burning and apparent torture? I was just thinking that this might be a passage that supports the greek mythology style hell.

    Any thoughts? Great to see you taking the bull by the horns anyway!


    Hello mate, good question.

    Lets clarify the NT’s eschatology.

    There are at least two stages after death. Stage one is the place where everyone goes when they die. It is refered to in various ways, the OT is talks about sheol, with no disctinction between the righteous and the wicked – so David will say ‘don’t let me go down to the grave’ and the word is sheol. The NT develops this theme somewhat, so jesus says to the thief on the cross ‘today you will be with me in paradise, Paul says to the thessalonians ‘we will all sleep’ and Hebrews speaks of a blessed rest. So stage one is an intermediate place of rest (at least for the righteous). Stage two is of course the resurrection – the new creation, of which Jesus own resurrection is a firstfruit. This is physical, concious, individual and just like this life, but with all pain, suffering and injustice done away with. Jusgement in a final sense happens at this point – it is a future event, and Hell as a final destination is populated at that point.

    So how does the rich mans and Lazerus fit into this? Well to start we need to be careful with it as it is clearly deeply apocryphal, and rooted in Jewish tradition (note that it is in Abraham’s bosom that Lazerus rests. Secondly it describes a situation pre final judgement. Both have died, one is in paradise, the other in Sheol. But Lazerus’s state is certainly not the destination of the Bible – this is not the resurrection. So it would seem fair to suggest that the rich man is not in his final destination either. There has clearly been some level of judgment that has taken place (Pope Ratzinger is actually quite helpful on this – having bactracked on the doctrine of purgatory, and he suggest that there is a ‘passing through the flames’ that takes place at death (al la 1 Co 3:15) but final judgment and destination are yet to take place.

    How is that?

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