Monday, September 04, 2006
A Heretic's Guide to Eternity
I just finished reading A Heretic's Guide to Eternity by Spencer Burke. It's a very interesting book. I had somewhat mixed feelings as I was reading it, and don't agree with everything Burke says, but overall I thought it was thought provoking in a good way.
I don't want to give away too much about it, but the main idea of the book is an "article" view of grace. The word heretic is used mainly to describe being willing to question the status quo of our beliefs and be willing to think in new ways. Burke used to be a pastor for many years, specifically in the role of teaching pastor in a megachurch. (I'm not sure of the specifics on that). Since then he has left the traditional institutional church completely. One of the things that comes out of that is his distaste for churches in general. Some of his complaints and thoughts regarding the church are understandable, but he even goes as far as saying there isn't much of a place for the church as we know it in the years to come. That could be, but I'm not convinced that we should give up on the church yet. Burke's view of the future is more of a kind of general spirituality that coincides with what he calls "mystical responsibility".
But going back to his ideas on grace... Burke describes himself as a "universalist who believes in hell". He uses several of Jesus' parables and stories to illustrate the idea that grace is bigger than any of us. The difference lies in the fact that instead of choosing to accept that grace, we are covered by grace unless we choose not to be. So in a sense, we would have to "opt-out" to be excluded from God's universal grace. Obviously, this view is very different than the traditional Christian view of each of us having to choose to "opt-in" to God's plan of salvation by baptism, repentance, salvation prayer, etc.
This is definitely a book that will ruffle some feathers and push peoples buttons. And that's the intent. Burke goes into great detail into reasons for these beliefs, and I'm not going to get into them here. Like I said, I don't agree with everything in this book, but there are some great thoughts and conversation starters.
I said before that Burke is not part of a church anymore, but he does have a community of people that he lives out his faith with. Each Sunday they go to the park and have a picnic lunch. They bring tons of food and invite everyone who is there to come and have a party with them, using that opportunity to show love to people. It's not the church that we know, but it sounds like Jesus to me.