Ever since Nietzsche made his famous pronouncement, theologians have wrung their hands over the metaphorical death of God. Yet what if God’s death were no metaphor? What if it were a documented event headlining every newspaper and covered incessantly by every television news channel in the world? What would happen to our world? To us?
Charles Frazier had a tough act to follow. His first novel, Cold Mountain, was both a literary and a popular sensation. It has sold more than 4 million copies, inspired a major Hollywood film, and won the National Book Award.
Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven—and How We Can Regain It
When I was attending a university in Germany, I lived alone and did research in the university library. Occasionally, I was aware of that peculiar kind of loneliness called homesickness. On those days, I found solace listening to a street performer named Terry. Terry was homeless, and he spent his afternoons on an old stone bridge near the university.
When my wife and I returned home from vacation with a painting of a wolf, noble and forlorn in its expression, I had no idea how strange this purchase would have seemed to our great-grandparents. As the preeminent symbol of disappearing wilderness, wolves inspire awe in my generation.
When fairy tales begin with the familiar phrase “Once upon a time,” they signal a mythical point of departure: the beginning of a great adventure. If Matthew had known this phrase, he might have employed it to introduce the calling of the first disciples, since his version of this story begins with the breathless anticipation of a fairy tale.
Gothic cathedral. A gay couple approaches holding hands. “Step aside, please,” say the muscle-bound guards. They speak similar words to an African-American girl, a Hispanic man, a young man in a wheelchair. Then, just as we realize that the two large men are “church bouncers,” the scene fades to black and the tag line reads: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”
When Rudolf Bultmann observed in 1941 that “there is no longer any heaven in the traditional sense of the word,” he was speaking accurately about the spirit of his age. For much of the 20th century, heaven has been treated as the theological equivalent of Timbuktu.
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