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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fear of Hell Fire

I was just thinking back to the days before I became a Christian.

Now, it's a recorded fact of parish history that my family were Extremely Primitive Methodists.  These faithful people rejected all use of artificial heating and lighting during worship. They were a devout folk, who suffered terribly from chilblains. Especially in the cold winter of 1962-3, when they were wiped out during a particularly long sermon.

My parents were blessed to be away that particular week. Returning to find that Bogwulf Chapel was full of dead Wesleyans, they resolved not to bring their children up in any faith at all. They figured this would increase our chances of not dying in cold churches.

As a result, my siblings and I were brought up with no identifiable religion. Sure, my grandfather was a great fan of "Songs of Praise" - at least until that awful accident involving the hay bailer that meant my father inherited the Big House. But I was given an upbringing free from dogma and certainty. I received my degree in Chemistry, and was prepared for a life in the secular world.

But then, in my early 20s, I was presented with an unexpected outlook on life. That the reliable, consistent world I had always believed in was underpinned with a reliable, consistent Deity in whom "we live and move and have our being." That this universe, which has produced the amazing attribute of creatures with personalities, might actually have been brought into being by person or persons. Who were / was deeply involved in my life - interested in, and loved, me.

I was drawn by love and grace.  I wasn't terrified by Hell. Wasn't running from sin. Not seeking to flee the fear of the wrath to come.

Oh no.  The Church had to tell me about all that, after I became a Christian.

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