Heaven Is (Not) Somewhere [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Today I respond to Bart Mitchell’s inaugural question to the Questions That Haunt Christianity series. Before I proffer my response, let me say that I am both humbled and astounded at the outpouring of responses to Bart’s question. I agree with many of your comments, and if I were a wiser man, I’d probably just copy and paste them here.

I’m also very grateful that Bart himself has been heavily engaged in the conversation. It’s not easy for a non-believer to repeatedly put himself in dialogue with committed believers, so it says a lot about Bart that he has. Now, without further adieu, my response.


Thanks for your question. It’s a tricky one, and I’ll admit that it’s not one I’ve spent much time thinking about. Unlike the Christians that you seem to meet, I did not grow up in a version of Christianity that was preoccupied by the afterlife. Sure, we talked about it, but it really wasn’t the motivating force for our Christian faith.

Of course, I am familiar with Christians who are preoccupied with what happens after you die — they seem to think that their purpose, as one pastor told me, is “to depopulate hell and populate heaven.” I’m not one of those. But the recent spate of books about “after death” experiences shows that it’s not just Christians who wonder what happens when we die.

Even the popularity (and infamy) of Rob Bell‘s book, Love Wins, shows that many, many Christians are concerned with the same question that you, as a non-believer, are raising.

You asked a two-part question: [Read more...]

Happiness in the Afterlife [Questions that Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

I have been astounded and gratified at the number of questions that have been submitted for this new series, The Questions that Haunt Christianity. Scores have come in, many from atheists (thanks to The Friendly Atheist for the shout out). Other questions have come from doubts, and from wavering believers. You can submit a question via my website; if your question is chosen, I’ll be in touch to let you know about the post, and to ask whether you’d like your name (and links) used or not.

As a reminder, a question will be posted every Tuesday. I look forward to all of you answering the question — and debating each other’s answers — in the comment section. On Friday, I’ll post my own response.

Our first question comes from Bart Mitchell:

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#progGOD Is Live!!!

Last month, I posted something out of frustration. I’d been reading lots of blogs written by progressive Christians. They were quick to criticize their more conservative brothers and sisters, but it seemed to me that they almost never said anything substantive about God. So I started to wonder, What do progressive Christians think about God? I mean, I know what I think. I just didn’t know what my compatriots think.

So I asked. Say something about God, I said, Something substantive — not about Jesus or the Bible, but about God. Some started by clearing their throats, talking about why it’s so hard to write something about God, about how God can’t be summed up in a blog post, etc. I called BS and reaffirmed the challenge.

Then the posts started rolling in. Dozens of them were submitted. And that has filled me with hope — progressive Christians¬†do have substantive things to say about God.

Deb Arca, my awesome editor at Patheos, has now helped me collects all of those posts and list them on a dedicated page on Patheos. It’s called #progGOD: An Open-Source Theological Conversation. Many of you who read this blog have posts there, and I hope you’re as gratified as I am to see the abundance of good and interesting theology in the list.

I think that #progGOD deserves to be broadcasted far and wide. I really hope that you will post the link on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and, of course, on your own blog. Progressive Christians take some deserved grief for being cagey about saying constructive things theologically; we seem to be more inclined toward deconstruction. But #progGOD shows another side, a constructive side, and the world should see that.

We’re going to have more challenges for progressive theo-bloggers, probably about one per quarter. So, watch this space for your next challenge. In the meantime, enjoy reading all of the great posts at #progGOD.

The Questions that Haunt Christianity

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Today, we start a new series here at Theoblogy. It’s called The Questions that Haunt Christianity, and it will be my attempt — as a theologian — to address the issues that keep people from faith.

I’m not afraid of doubt. I, myself, am a doubter. But I consider a large part of my vocation as a Christian theologian to proffer intellectually honest answers to the big questions of faith.

So this series is for everyone who doubts. It’s for your friends who are agnostic and atheistic. It’s a place for them to email me a question, and get an honest answer — even if the answer doesn’t necessarily show Christianity in the best light. It’s a place for you to submit the biggest hurdle you have to fully giving yourself over to the Christian faith.

Here’s how it will work:

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