Pearly Gates & Streets of Gold (part one)

Let me begin by sharing a short passage from my novel The Devil and Pastor Gus, which I consider to be the most important novel I’ve ever written, even if its readership has been more limited than for some of the others. This comes from page 269 of the print edition. Gus is having a conversation with Peter about what Heaven is really like. Peter is speaking first:

 

“But God tells me you’re a bit skeptical about the ‘pearly gates’ and ‘streets of gold’ the Bible talks about.” As if anticipating Gus’s defensiveness, he added, “That doesn’t bother Him, though.”

“That’s good. I’ve always believed Heaven is too wonderful to picture, so its exact appearance is beyond my imagination.”

Peter patted Gus on the shoulder. “It’s beyond everyone’s imagination.”

Readers often ask the authors they admire whether their stories are autobiographical. I willingly admit there’s probably some of me in every character I create, even the women. But that’s especially true of Pastor Gus himself. Both of us suffered a midlife crisis for what seemed like years, and each of us wanted to leave a significant spiritual legacy through our writing–novels, specifically.

There are a number of less significant similarities, like Gus’s desire to speak with a genuine Australian accent after returning from a mission trip there. I’ve been to Australia six or seven times, and most of my trips were mission trips.

But what I want to focus on today has to do with the passage of The Devil and Pastor Gus quoted above. I was hesitant to write those paragraphs for fear I would be accused of not taking the Bible literally.

I do take the Bible literally, but with these (go ahead and call me liberal if you must) thoughts in mind:

  • Ancient Hebrew didn’t originally have vowels, and many words had multiple meanings. Without having the constant guidance of someone who lived during biblical times, many passages that would’ve been perfectly clear then are confusing to modern readers. It’s even possible that the original meanings have sometimes been “lost in translation”–or at least unintentionally mangled.
  • Furthermore, some things were applicable to the Jews of yesteryear and were never meant for modern-day Christians. Remember that the next time you’re, uh, pigging out on bacon or sausage.
  • Ancient Hebrew didn’t have uppercase letters. So the contemporary tendency to uppercase pronouns designating God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is–in one sense–an enhancement to the Bible. That may be correctly done in most instances. But are all of the correct?

Are you accusing me yet of being too liberal? I hope not. I could give you more ammunition that’s not relevant to this blog post. For example, I don’t really care whether the seven days of creation were twenty-four hour days or periods of time. I’ve heard both from people I highly respect.

My, but I’m straying from the original purpose of this post. Tell you what. Let’s call today’s post “Part One.” I’ll finish next Sunday.

Any comments on Part One? Please share.

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Best regards,
Roger

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