(Continued from yesterday.)
The summer was hot and miserable. There was no relief. Even when it rained it was warm. You just could not rid the body of sweat. We bailed hey one week and two weeks later harvested the wheat and than the straw was bailed. There was a week of play. I swam with friends at a pond a mile from our farm.
As I walked back to the house by way of the lane leading from the pond I saw Bowden and Dad talking under a willow. Dad grabbed lawn chairs from the back porch and sat them beneath the tree. Dad went inside and got two glasses of lemonade.
I darted upstairs and to the window closest to Dad and Bowden. I turned the fan off to listen.
“The church has struggled for years with the concept of hell,” Dad said.
“Agreed,” Bowden said, “But if there was only a one percent chance of it existing would it not be wise to believe there is a burning hell? Would you take a drive in your car knowing there is a one percent chance of an accident?”
“So sense you presented that argument,” Dad said, “perhaps you can tell me what the cut-off point is. What is the acceptable probability of hell existing or not existing before you accept it or discontinue belief in it.”
“If there is any chance,” Bowden said.
“Than our discussion will serve little purpose,” Dad said. “If through our discussion you would agree there is a 1,000 to 1 or 10,000 or even a million to 1; the mere fact there is any chance is enough for you believe even in the improbable or the impossible.”
“The existence of the earth is sure, but it is one of perhaps billions of planets,” Bowden said.
“True,” Dad said. “But we have physical proof of existence to make a calculation. Tell me who has seen hell and reported it’s existence?”
“Lazarus,” Bowden said.
“That’s it?” Dad said.
“That’s enough,” Bowden said.
“But it sounds to me that you are not certain that Lazarus is the absolute proof of hell,” Dad said.
“I’m very certain,” Bowden said.
“Your own words betray your conviction,” Dad said. “You purport the existence to be only as high as 1 percent. You seem not to be that confident in Lazarus account.
I’m curious as to why.”
“I used 1 percent as hyperbole,” Bowden said. “an example.”
“Do you think that Jesus was likewise using hyperbole or an allegory to prove a point?” Dad said.
“It is possible,” Bowden said.
“Is it greater than 1 percent possible?” Dad said.
Bowden gulped the lemonade.
“Hotter than hell ain’t it?” Dad said.
“We can not toss away two thousand years of Christian teaching,” Bowden said.
“I understand your loyalty to traditions of the church,” Dad said, “but of all the doctrines we have discussed to this point which one did Jesus correct the Pharisees on? Did he tell them they had to spend more time at the synagogue? Did he condemn them for not believing he was part of a trinity? Did he correct them for not believing in burning hell?”
“None of those,” Bowden said.
“But he did condemn them for their adherence to tradition,” Dad said.
Bowden finished the lemonade. “I have an appointment a couple of miles from here.”
They stood and shook hands.
“One last thing to think about,” Dad said. “Do you think hell is fiery?”
“There is that possibility,” Bowden said.
“Recall, according to Revelation 20, what is hurled into the lake of fire?”
“Death and hell,” Bowden said.
“Yes,” Dad said. “If hell is somehow a lake of fire than what purpose would it serve to toss something that is already on fire into a lake of fire”
“That’s interesting,” Bowden said.
“The key to understanding the seeming conundrum is what else is thrown there?” Dad said.
“Death,” Bowden said.
“Is death something that can be burned literally?” Dad said. “That’s rhetorical, you have and appointment.”