Friday, May 15, 2020

Colleagues List, May 17th, 2020

Vol XV. No. 41

Archive - Dec 2009 - Oct 2019                                                                                    

GLOBAL AND ECUMENICAL IN SCOPE                                          CANADIAN IN PERSPECTIVE

Wayne A. Holst, Editor
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Dear Friends:

This week I introduce you to a new book by a favourite
author, Bart Ehrman. Over the years I have found him
to be a great friend in my search for life's meaning and
am always happy to share his books and lectures with
others. Please enjoy, as well as struggle!

I happy to share another full complement of material -
current thinking, news and wisdom.


NOTE A REMINDER - If a link, below seems to be dead, 
cut and paste it into the address bar at the top of your 
web page and it should work.



Book Notice -

A History of the Afterlife
by Bart D. Ehrman

Simon & Schuster, Toronto
Hardcover $36.50 CAD. 
Kindle $18.00 CAD
ISBN # 97815011136733

Publisher's Promo:

New York Times bestselling historian of early 

Christianity takes on two of the most gripping 
questions of human existence: where did the 
ideas of heaven and hell come from, and why 
do they endure?

What happens when we die? A recent Pew 

Research poll showed that 72% of Americans 
believe in a literal heaven, 58% in a literal hell. 
Most people who hold these beliefs are Christian 
and assume they are the age-old teachings of the 
Bible. But eternal rewards and punishments are 
found nowhere in the Old Testament and are not 
what Jesus or his disciples taught.

So where did the ideas come from?

In clear and compelling terms, Bart Ehrman recounts

the long history of the afterlife, ranging from The Epic 
of Gihlgamesh up to the writings of Augustine, focusing 
especially on the teachings of Jesus and his early 
followers. He discusses ancient guided tours of heaven 
and hell, in which a living person observes the sublime 
blessings of heaven for those who are saved and the 
horrifying torments of hell for the damned. Some of 
these accounts take the form of near death experiences, 
the oldest on record, with intriguing similarities to those 
reported today.

One of Ehrman’s startling conclusions is that there never 

was a single Greek, Jewish, or Christian understanding 
of the afterlife, but numerous competing views. Moreover, 
these views did not come from nowhere; they were 
intimately connected with the social, cultural, and 
historical worlds out of which they emerged. Only 
later, in the early Christian centuries, did they develop 
into the notions of eternal bliss or damnation widely 
accepted today.

As a historian, Ehrman obviously cannot provide a 

definitive answer to the question of what happens 
after death. In Heaven and Hell, he does the next 
best thing: by helping us reflect on where our ideas 
of the afterlife come from, he assures us that even 
if there may be something to hope for when we die, 
there is certainly nothing to fear.


Author's Words:

This book discusses views of the afterlife in the
ancient Near East, Greece and Rome, the Hebrew
Bible, Second Temple Judaism, the New Testament
and Early Christianity.

When I was a child I believed in heaven and hell.
As a teenager the hope for heaven and fear of hell
played a large role in my spiritual thinking.

When I became a born-again Christian, I had no
doubt: I was going to heaven.

I felt badly for those who did not believe as I did.
They were lost and it was my duty to convert them.
I was  a Christian on a mission and quite obnoxious
about it.

I went through a number of evangelical schools
and then did post-graduate studies at Princeton
Theological Seminary, decidedly a non-fundamental-
ist school. I began to wonder about my strongly-held
beliefs in God and Christ. Would my eternal life 
get into serious trouble? 

Should I doubt my teachers? I wanted to be right.

In time I moved into a more liberal kind of faith.
Finally, I left my faith altogether. But my fascination 
with the afterlife continued. It played a very important
role in the thinking of early Christians, which has
always been my teaching and research specialty.

Knowing where ideas of the afterlife came from, 
how they developed, how they changed over time
can teach us how Christianity came to be what it
is today.

Many people in our modern societies hold to very
traditional beliefs about heaven and hell today.
But these views do not go back to early Christianity.
They have evolved over the centuries. They cannot
be found in the Old Testament and they are not
what Jesus taught. Where did they come from?

Both Judaism and Christianity were remarkably
diverse in their views. Even Paul differed from
Jesus. So where did these beliefs originate? 

I am not saying that a literal heaven or hell
have experienced historical changes. I am saying
that the ideas of heaven and hell were invented
and have been altered over the years.

I am not saying these ideas are wrong. Only that
once these ideas did not exist and then they did.

My task here is to see how ideas of the afterlife
came about, were modified, transformed, believed,
doubted and disbelieved over time.

Many different cultures and philosophies helped
to determine the beliefs about the afterlife we
hold today and I will work through many of them.

Death itself cannot be the end of the story. A study
of beliefs about death and the afterlife can lead to
important and salutary ends.

In the end, our beliefs about this important subject
can provide assurance and comfort. I believe that
we have absolutely nothing to fear. That can help
us to enjoy living in the here and now; living lives
that are full of meaning and purpose in the time
allotted to us.

- edited/interpreted from the book's 
   Acknowledgments and Preface sections.


Author's Bio:

Bart D. Ehrman is a highly acclaimed scholar of the 
New Testament and the history of early Christianity. 
He is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of 
Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina 
at Chapel Hill. He is the author or editor of over thirty-
one books and has been featured in the New Yorker 
and Time. In addition to appearances on the National 
Geographic channel, the History channel, the Discovery 
channel, BBC, and NPR's Fresh Air, Ehrman has written 
five New York Times bestsellers, including How Jesus 
Became God. With preeminent academic credentials, 
he is the editor and Greek-to-English translator of both 
volumes of The Apostolic Fathers - Loeb Classic Library.


Q@A With Bart Ehrman: 
Religion News Service, March 26th, 2020:


Frederick Buechner's Paragraphs about Heaven and Hell:


My Thoughts:

One of the great benefits about having doubts along
our faith journeys - then learning from those who have
struggled with those doubts to find a richer meaning - 
is one of the central benefits of reading a book like 
this one.

Ehrman has moved from a very conservative to a 
liberal Christianity, and then to a place of agnosticism
from which he has written many thoughtful and most
important books. His task is not to turn believers into
non-believers. Rather, it is to follow the truth wherever
it leads him. and to help us do the same.

I was raised in an environment where it was considered
a sin to doubt the truths of the faith handed down to me.
I represented that through many years of ministry, and
I tried to convince others that doubt was wrong.

No longer do I believe this. My understanding has shifted
from passing on the truths understood by others to come
to a truth I have found for myself. If Christ offers me
"the Way, the Truth and the Life" I will not go wrong
if I continue to live and bear witness to the truth that
I must pursue. I invite others to join me in that quest.

That truth applies to the meaning I find for this life, and
the hope I have for what happens after death. As a good
friend once shared - "I am prepared for whatever comes."

This book, like many of Ehrman's previous works, 
helps me to move through doubts to deeper meanings.
I think he would do the same for you.


Buy the book from



Shanon Mang,
Calgary, AB

CTV News,
May 11th, 2020

"I Would Do Anything for a Do-Ov


Martin Marty,
Chicago, IL


 May 11th, 2020

"Cultural Disruptions"

Mark Whittall,
Ottawa, ON

Sermons and Blog,
May 8th, 2020

"There's a Place for You


Jim Taylor,
Okanagan, BC

Personal Web Log,
May 8th, 2020

"Stay Home, Keep Calm, Knit Comfort"


Ron Rolheiser,
San Antonio, TX

Personal Web Site,
May 11th, 2020

"Leaving Peace Behind as Our Farewell Gift"


NET NOTES - May 17th, 2020

6 Examples of Religion in His Life

Religion News Service,
May 11th, 2020


Q & A With Franklin Graham

Religion News Service,
May 12th, 2020


Punk May Be in Its Future

New York Times,
May 8th, 2020


This Year It's Going Virtual

May 15th, 2020


Her Bicentenary is Celebrated in May

May 12th, 2020


Most Americans Are Quite Cautious

New York Times,
May 14th, 2020


His Church Invests in Science

Religion News Service,
May 11th, 2020


The Value of Being Little

Faith and Leadership
May 5th, 2020


It is Making Us Sad

Christianity Today,
May 7th, 2020


WISDOM OF THE WEEK - May 17th, 2020

Provided by Sojourners and the  Bruderhof online:

If we lose love and self-respect for each other, 
this is how we finally die.

- Maya Angelou


Each contact with a human being is so rare,
so precious, one should preserve it.

- Anaïs Nin


The church is being called back to fulfilling the initial
responsibility of ministering to the human condition.

- Brandon T. Crowley


If one really wishes to know how justice is
administered in a country, one does not question
the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the
protected members of the middle class.

One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely,
who need the law's protection most! — and listens
to their testimony.

- James Baldwin, "No Name in the Street"


Jesus went directly to those who were outcasts.
He much preferred to associate with the “sinners”
than with those who proudly set themselves apart.
Jesus shared the lot of the downtrodden because
God himself loves those rejected by society, those
the world deems unworthy. God wants to help all
people, and raise the dignity they possess to the light.

 - Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt


There is often more wisdom to be found at the
edges of life than in its middle. Life-threatening
illness may shuffle our values like a deck of cards.

Sometimes a card that has been on the bottom of
the deck for most of our lives turns out to be the
top card, the thing that really matters. Having
watched people sort their cards and play their
hands in the presence of death for many years,

I would say that rarely is the top card perfection,
or possessions, or even pride. Most often the
top card is love.

- Rachel Naomi Remen



In times of profound change, the learners 
inherit the earth, while the learned find 
themselves beautifully equipped to deal
with a world that no longer exists.




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Colleagues List, May 24th, 2020

Vol XV. No. 42 Archive - Dec 2009 - Oct 2019                                                                                               ...