Tuesday, January 25, 2005

So, here's a scary thought. What if the standard for getting into Heaven was perfection? That is to say, if you've ever done something wrong, you haven't earned your way in.

Actually, it makes sense to me. Heaven, it's written, has no pain. It's an eternity of communion with God, where every need is filled. No hunger. No mourning. How do you earn that? What do you do to deserve a complete lack of anything bad?

It's also written that God is just. That is, He gives people what they deserve. I've looked at myself pretty hard for the past couple weeks, thinking about this issue. I'm really the only case I'm qualified to judge at all. Thus, I re-asked the question of myself: Do I deserve to go to Heaven?

That's not actually the question I asked. I considered whether I deserved Hell. And the answer is yes.

I thought about the weight of everything I've ever done wrong. Quite heavy. I tried to imagine the sum total of all the pain I've caused other people throughout my life. It's a scary thought, once it begins to add up. And regardless of the good I've done, my sin remains. It can't be undone.

Furthermore, my sins have grieved God. An eternal being, who loves me. My temporal actions have eternal consequences. So I must conclude that I haven't earned Heaven, and I deserve Hell. I speak only for myself, and I encourage others to do the same.

Does anyone think they've earned Heaven? I don't think I have.

The only reason I'm going is that I've accepted grace. It's an option for everyone, thanks be to Jesus. If salvation were fair, instead of merciful, we'd all be screwed.

11. Explain why, if your god loves us all, more than half of us are going to Hell after we die. Specifically, refute or explain the following words of Christ, as presented in the New Testament: "Many are called but few are chosen," and "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto salvation, and few there be that find it." If your god loves all of us, couldn't he find a better way?

12. Explain what type of offense could possibly justify eternal, unbearable torture in Hell; if your sect does not believe in Hell, then refute every passage in the Old and New Testaments which describes Hell (such as 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 and Revelation 20:15). (Do not exceed 100 words.)

13. Explain how your god can be both just and merciful, when these terms apparently contradict each other.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

There will be more theology coming. I'm actually in the middle of researching one of the big questions that's plagued people for a while. Now that I'm really looking into the question at hand, I'm realizing how challenging it is. It's wonderful. Questions are essential to grow in faith. This next one will provoke plenty of good conversation, I'm sure.

For tonight, something else.

* * *

There had been brutal murders in the city of Broadgate. This one, Kleinmann thought, was nothing less than an atrocity. It seemed that nothing that belonged inside the man's body was left inside his body. Nor his wife's. Their respective remains covered the entire floor of the apartment, the expensive couch, the paintings on the walls. Only their faces were intact. Not their heads, but their faces. All that was left of them showed surprise, staring at their own inner workings.

"Hideous," Kleinmann muttered. He stood in the doorway, looking for a path inside. Surveying the room, he could see no footprints on the clean areas. There had to be a path. His nostrils were filled with the scent of blood and sweat. Several people, but only three scents weren't the police officers securing the crime scene. One person had done this.

"We're secure, Court Officer," the sergeant in charge reported. The man's eyes snapped from Kleinmann to the gruesome scene in the apartment. As Kleinmann watched, the policeman went pale.

"I take it you have not found the suspect yet," Kleinmann said.

The sergeant narrowed his eyes at Kleinmann. "You expect us to find the guy five minutes after we get here. Nice."

"No, sergeant," Kleinmann answered, keeping his voice even. "I assumed you had not because you certainly would have told me if you had."

"Oh." The man lowered his eyes, stealing another glance at the murder scene. "I'm sorry, sir... this is just..." He threw up a helpless hand, gesturing to the carnage.

Kleinmann nodded. "The worst kind of murder... as though one were better than another. But you see what I mean."

The sergeant shrugged and wiped his brow, looking away from the room. "Disgusting."

Kleinmann was silent for a moment, staring. Searching. "The worst kind. Vicious, but intentional. This took time. And expertise."

"Sounds like an assassination to me."

Kleinmann nodded. "Who are the victims, sergeant?"

The sergeant was removing his gloves, prepared to leave the rest to the Court Officer and his subordinates. "The front desk tells me this is Geoffrey Harrison's suite. Apparently, he works for the Finance Ministry."

Finance. "Thank you, sergeant. Send the forensics team straight here when they arrive."

"Yes, sir." With an offhand salute, the sergeant turned and headed back toward the elevator. Halfway down the hall, he stopped. "You are Court Officer Kleinmann."

Kleinmann looked the man in the eye, seeking his intent. "I am."

The sergeant nodded. "Well, it was good to finally meet you, sir. Good luck."

A ringing noise shrilled from Kleinmann's pocket. "Thank you," he said, answering his phone. The sergeant stepped into the elevator.

"Walter. Have you discovered anything?"

"Nothing yet, Councilor. I've only just arrived." The elevator doors closed, and the sergeant was lost to sight. Kleinmann turned away from the open door and shut his eyes. "But this is perhaps the most horrible thing I have ever seen. The victim was a state employee. Mr. Geoffrey Harrison."

"Yes, I know," said Councilor Donovan, followed by a short gasp.

Kleinmann stood up a little straighter. "You do."

The Councilor sighed on the other edge of the line. "Yes. I was informed."

Kleinmann waited through several seconds of silence. No further explanation came. With a sigh, he said, "It sounds like I will have to take a statement from you, Donovan."

He pictured Donovan Llewellyn nodding resignedly on the other end of the line. "Of course, Court Officer."

"When I am done here."

"Very well. Until then, Walter." The line went dead.

For a long while, Kleinmann held the phone before him, looking at it questioningly. Strange notions, bizzare scenarios ran through his head, anything to explain why the most decent man he knew would be involved with the most brutal murder he had ever seen.

The faces of Geoffrey Harrison and his wife, only now settling to room temperature, remained silent.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

When I first saw the Heirophant's questionnaire on John's blog, I decided to answer all of the questions, and went to far as to say I would. I went through about a third of them, decided it was a waste of my time, and quit. John and I talked about the questions a bit, and I thought that was enough.

Then, Liam answered them all. I had been going back and forth about whether or not I should have finished the questionnaire until then. Now I realize I've made myself a liar, and once again failed to complete something I've started. For now.

I'll be using my blog to answer some of the questions I thought were actually worth answering. The rest, I will answer and post elsewhere upon request. As I said on John's blog, a lot of the Heirophant's questions are really poorly conceived. The website itself says, in bold and italic, "this is not intended to confront Christians," probably because any Christian worth his salt would knock these questions down like so many termite-eaten bowling pins.

So, I come to you as a Christian, who has studied not as much as he should have. If some of my answers are imperfect, please correct me. I am prepared to defend my answers, and also prepared to learn.

Tonight, I address question 46, a common myth that must be dealt with.

46. At no point in the four Gospels did Jesus claim to be the son of your god. (He said "son of man" quite frequently, and at one point referred to himself as "a son of god," but that was a common Hebrew expression at the time. Someone who was "a son of god" was a Jew. This reflected the Israelites' belief that they were the chosen people of your god. See also Job 1:6). Why, then, do you believe that Jesus was divine? If you don't believe that Jesus was divine, then why do you call yourself a Christian?

John 8:54-59
Jesus answered, "If I am boasting about myself, it doesn't count. But it is my Father who says these glorious things about me. You say, 'He is our God,' but you do not even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But it is true - I know him and obey him. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad."
The people said, "You aren't even fifty years old. How can you say that Abraham has seen you?"
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, before Abraham was, I am!"
At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.

In this passage, Jesus plainly claims to be God. Note:

Exodus 3:13-14
But Moses protested, "If I go the people of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' they won't believe me. They will ask, 'Which god are you talking about? What is his name?' Then what should I tell them?"
God replied, "I Am Who I Am. Just tell them, 'I Am has sent me to you.'"

Jesus refers to himself using a the word Hayah, a name of God which no Jew could mistake. This is why the crowd attempts to stone him - for blasphemy. Also, even more plainly:

John 10:30
"The Father and I are one."

More answers to come. Count on it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

For a long while, Kleinmann just stood and examined the statue. The Cult of Masael had decided on this as the central material icon of their religion, and it showed. The titanic figure was no less than 25 stories tall, and surrounded by strategically placed spotlights which kept the statue permanently illuminated. Masael was designed to be androgynous, with a narrow, supple physique, but thoroughly muscled. One great golden hand raised above its shoulders, a clenched fist of victory. The other hand was pressed against the heart, the head with its effeminate face bowed, chin to chest. A wave of platinum cords swept over its shoulders, stirring when strong enough winds blew.

It was, Kleinmann thought, a very acceptable image for the general population of Broadgate. He only let the thought bother him for a minute - that Masael's well-designed body had not one of his features.

He lifted his short-furred hand to check his watch, and caught a faint reflection of his face. The long muzzle, decisively marked with black and brown. The tall, pointed, listening ears at the top of his head. And the eyes, which, though they were round and yellow, looked nothing at all like a dog's.

Kleinmann began the walk back to his flat, making his way through the thick crowd around the base of the Masael monument. Children and adults alike stared at his passage, looking away even from the glory of the statue at the center of the square. Dogmen were not uncommon, but a dogman in a Court Officer's uniform was unique. As he politely navigated the crowd, he tipped his cap every so often and allowed himself a smile. He was proud of his rank, and rightfully so. There had only been a few sergeants of his race in the Broadgate police force before him, and before them, only civilians. It was rare indeed for anyone, let alone the courts, to rely on the analysis of a dogman.

Again, Kleinmann considered the Cult of Masael. The crowds had only grown since the statue had gone up, and he had seen more and more people in the Halls of Order wearing he sign of the Cult. The small, golden dagger, pinned to the lapel. A strange symbol, for which he had heard various explanations.

A dagger. Why a dagger?

His thoughts were interrupted by a chime from his pocket. He removed the small silver phone from his pocket and answered. "Officer Kleinmann."

"Walter, there's been another homicide. Down at the fifth residential bloc."

"I will be there momentarily. I'm... curious as to why I'm hearing this from you, Councilor."

"Oh, I was in the Hall and I heard it come down the line. Besides, does a man need an excuse to call a friend?"

"Apparently yes, tonight," Kleinmann said wistfully. So strange to hear a good friend's voice with such ill tidings. "I'll take care of it, Donovan. Thank you."

Councilor Donovan sighed audibly. "No, thank you, Walter." A click.

Kleinmann folded his phone and slid it back into his coat pocket. Another long night lay ahead of him, and he knew it. Already, there were questions.

* * *

And so we have a very first draft of the beginning of my latest short story, set in an alternate modern Earth, in the city of Broadgate. More to come.