The following is Part 1 of a thorough and thoughtful review of Raising Hell by Alice Spicer, a woman I’ve never met from central Florida. She did an amazing job of highlighting the message and including some of her own thought-provoking research, experiences, and thoughts as well:
If you’ve never read Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, you should do so. It is a delightful tale of the undoing of collective denial. It has been said that Anderson’s tale was written as political satire, and although that may be true, I believe it is much more than that. Anderson’s tale is a remarkable analogy for the religious pomposity that has had the world by its balls since the beginning of time. This is evidenced by Anderson’s explanation about how his views on Hell differ from those of his teacher of Greek and Latin studies in his book, True Story of My Life, how he reacted at first, and finally, how those views surfaced in his writing:
…everything tended to assist me in my Greek and Latin studies; in one direction, however, and that the one in which it would least have been expected, did my excellent teacher find much to do; namely, in religion. He closely adhered to the literal meaning of the Bible; with this I was acquainted, because from my first entrance in the school I had clearly understood what was said and taught by it. I received gladly, both with feeling and understanding, the doctrine, that God is love: everything which opposed this–a burning hell, therefore, whose fire endured forever–I could not recognize. Released from the distressing existence of the school-bench, I now expressed myself like a free man; and my teacher, who was one of the noblest and most amiable of human beings, but who adhered firmly to the letter, was often quite distressed about me. We disputed, whilst pure flames kindled within our hearts. It was nevertheless good for me that I came to this unspoiled, highly-gifted young man, who was possessed of a nature as peculiar as my own.
That which, on the contrary, was an error in me, and which became very perceptible, was a pleasure which I had, not in jesting with, but in playing with my best feelings, and in regarding the understanding as the most important thing in the world. The rector had completely mistaken my undisguisedly candid and sensitive character; my excitable feelings were made ridiculous, and thrown back upon themselves; and now, when I could freely advance upon the way to my object, this change showed itself in me. From severe suffering I did not rush into libertinism, but into an erroneous endeavor to appear other than I was. I ridiculed feeling, and fancied that I had quite thrown it aside; and yet I could be made wretched for a whole day, if I met with a sour countenance where I expected a friendly one. Every poem which I had formerly written with tears, I now parodied, or gave to it a ludicrous refrain; one of which I called “The Lament of the Kitten,” another, “The Sick Poet.” The few poems which I wrote at that time were all of a humorous character: a complete change had passed over me; the stunted plant was reset, and now began to put forth new shoots.
Julie Ferwerda uses Anderson’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, to set the stage for her book, Raising Hell: Christianity’s Most Controversial Doctrine Put Under Fire. Anderson’s story, coupled with Sam Walter Foss’s The Calf Path, serve as Ferwerda’s powerful double punch that knocks the hypocritical and complacent snot out of the religious mind before round one (I mean, chapter one).
Because of her life-changing personal discovery, I believe that Ferwerda needed to write this book. To her “was granted this grace: to bring the evangel of the untraceable riches of Christ to the nations, and to enlighten all as to what is the administration of the secret, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all…” She can’t help but express “that now may be made known to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials, through the ecclesia, the multifarious wisdom of God, in accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus, our Lord;” in Whom we have boldness and access with confidence, through His faith.” (Ephesians 3:8-12) To state it plainly, those of us who have Amazing Hope are too full of joy NOT to share what we know. Believe me, I tried to keep it to myself when I was still shackled in religious chains, still allowing myself to be intimidated into silence by spiritual police, but one year later it burst forth from me. His glory simply cannot be suppressed. The whole world could not contain enough books to express the riches of His glory.
Raising Hell is written from the POV of one who once believed and vigorously defended the doctrine of eternal torment, a doctrine which her daughter was not willing to accept and which she regularly challenged. Ferwerda writes,
In my mother-knows-best reasoning mode, I patiently yet dogmatically explained to her each time what I had been ingrained to believe over a lifetime: “God deeply loves every person He ever created, but in that love, He had to give them a choice to love and accept Him or to reject His free gift of salvation. God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose to go to hell by rejecting Him.”
Her first confrontation with evidence which she says, “found me” was when she began to study with a Messianic Jewish woman. She says, “…it seemed a whole world of understanding began to open up in our Bibles, particularly in the Old Testament.” She found errors and inconsistencies between translations, not just in peripheral and obscure passages but in “what appeared to us to be arbitrary or slanted renderings of passages that are foundational to certain Christian orthodox doctrines.” She cites as an example, Hebrews 1:2 which says in the various translations,
NIV: “…through whom he made the universe.”
NASB: “…through whom also He made the world.”
KJV: “…through whom he made the worlds.”
BBE: “…through whom he made the order of the generations.”
YLT: “…through whom also He did make the ages.”
She also noticed that Jeremiah (8:7-9) said, “But My people do not know the ordinance of the LORD. How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what kind of wisdom do they have?” Ferwerda concludes, “Right there, Jeremiah confirmed that the scribes had inserted lies into Old Testament writings, many centuries before the Bible was ever established or canonized. I’m not suggesting that all translation errors are intentional, but somewhere along the line, people with the authority to influence the theology of billions, mades some serious mistakes. On the heels of this discovery, Ferwerda’s daughter referred her to this article on Savior-of-All.com, along with a bunch of scripture references, and she thought, “How had I never noticed all those verses before – verses that seemed to express a much more inclusive Gospel than what I had always believed?” After a few months (taking time to be sure), Ferwerda discarded the doctrine of eternal torment and became convinced that God would reconcile everyone to Himself eventually.
Read the rest of this review and fascinating comments on the blog, WhatGodDoes.com.
More about Alice’s Blog:
Have you ever been to church or had a conversation with a religious person in which you asked honest, difficult questions, only to find yourself dissatisfied or disillusioned with the answers they provide? Perhaps you question the existence of God, what it really means to be a “Christian,” inconsistencies in scripture, the moral track record of religious institutions, the fear and terror related emotions induced by eternal torment and wrath-of-God doctrines, how religion’s insistence on tribal and mythological thinking has stumped human progress in science and learning, etc. You want to know how and why it is that a good God seems to have approved of slavery, the degradation of women, genocide, torture, the ill-treatment of homosexuals or people who are otherwise labeled “outcast,” etc.
If this is true of you, you are in good company – there are thousands of people all around with world who haven’t entirely given up on their own spirituality but are sick to death of the hypocrisy and hate which seems to inevitably accompany spiritual discussion. This blog is concerned with Who God is and what God does, without all the showy pretenses and quid pro quos imposed by the corrupt spiritual police of this world. The content of www.whatgoddoes.com will include regular criticism and analysis of church history; contrast/compare ideas in theology, popular opinion, science, and philosophy; review and even pick apart, when necessary, apologetic books, articles, blogs, and other media; as well as creative musings about current events, entertainment, and my personal experiences.