I just finished reading a really good book by George Pendle entitled Death: A Life.  It is the fascinating first-person recounting of the life of Death (you may know him as the Grim Reaper), from his infernal birth in hell to finding his purpose in Creation in the Garden of Eden, and his work all throughout human history.  I found it to be both hilarious and thought-provoking.

One scene in particular struck me as insightful.  At one point in the story Death finds himself in heaven before the throne of God.  When Death complains about the anomaly of Jesus not staying dead, God replies…

“Through His death” – the divine light gestured at Jesus – “all mankind shall be redeemed.”

“But He didn’t even die,” I squeaked.

“Yes, I did,” beamed Jesus.  “You saw Me.”

“You winked at me,” I countered.  “That’s not dying, that’s pretending.  And besides, if You were dead, why were You running around asking everyone in Jerusalem to poke their fingers into Your side?”

“My son’s sacrifice,” boomed God, who didn’t seem to be listening to me anymore, “has saved mankind from original sin.”

“But –”

“He paid for the sins of mankind through His blood, through His sacrifice.”  Jesus was just sitting there grinning; the argument between the two of them was forgotten.

“But –”

“Through the sacrifice of His blood,” boomed God, “the torture of His body, He redeemed mankind through His sacrifice.  Do you understand, Death?  Do you understand the meaning of sacrifice?”

Something inside me snapped.

“What is it with You and sacrifice?” I shouted.  “Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice!  Don’t get me wrong, I love dead things, they’re my whole Life, but You’re obsessed.  Why can’t You do anything without something dying first?  Do You get some kind of perverse pleasure out of that?  Why do You want everything to die before it reaches Paradise?  And why do You insist on showing Your power and majesty through earthquakes, disease, and flooding?  Why are You always killing things?  What is it, exactly, that You’ve got against Life?”

I love that scene!  If you read the book, you’ll see how it fits into the overall story.  But, I just love that scene for its own sake.  Why, you ask?  Because it does such a great job of simply asking honest questions about some of the things that people actually believe about God.

I already spent a good amount of time in this blog of fleshing out my view of Christ’s atonement (if you haven’t yet had the chance to read that series, please do).  So, I won’t go into that here.  But let’s all take a few minutes now to just be honest about how ugly that understanding of God is.  “What is it with You and sacrifice? … You’re obsessed.”  A huge chunk of the Old Testament (especially the Pentateuch) is God’s commands about sacrifices.  “Why can’t You do anything without something dying first?”  Both Jesus and all of those poor animals in the Old Testament had to be killed before God would forgive people.  Really?  “And why do You insist on showing Your power and majesty through earthquakes, disease, and flooding?”  I think we’ve all heard some preacher or theologian chalk up every new catastrophe to God’s divine will or judgment.  “Why are You always killing things?”  How many times have we heard, “It was his time” or “God called her home” after someone dies.

I especially love that last question, “What is it, exactly, that You’ve got against Life?”  For being the sort of God who is supposed to be all-good, all-loving, and the Lord of life, God seems to be doing more than His fair share of killing.  It’s almost as if He doesn’t even like Life much, isn’t it?

Like I said, I don’t want to offer an answer at this point (you can read the atonement series, if you really want my take on this).  For now, I just want us to be uncomfortable with this picture of God.  Let’s just sit with that for a while… at least long enough for us to wonder if maybe God’s not like that at all.

In the meantime, go out and get yourself a copy of Death: A Life.  It’s a great read, especially if you like irreverent satires with dry humor and a touch of Judeo-Christian mythology and theology.1  Enjoy!

1: Another great book that fits in this style is Christopher Moore’s, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It does a great job of drawing on various theories of the “lost years” between Jesus’ childhood and ministry, and blending them into an extremely moving and entertaining tale.

| Peace | 2 comments so far

Ready for another article?

Rocky Munoz
Jesus-follower, husband, daddy, amateur theologian, former youth pastor, nerd, and coffee snob. Feel free to email me at almostheresy@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter (@rockstarmunoz)

2 Comments

  1. Lindsay, June 14, 2014 at 11:32 am:

    Hey Rocky!
    I have read parts of the book Death: A Life. While the humor is good, I found the portrayal of God entirely wrong (which is the point, I know). However, that portrayal of God (aside from him being incompetent and insane in the book) doesn’t take into account God’s Biblical character nor the common view of those who adhere to penal substitution atonement. When we overemphasize only one aspect of God’s character and push all the other aspects of God’s character, such as his mercy, love, holiness, justice, etc., aside, we are left with a skewed version of God that is quite easily capable of being mocked. The humor in the context of the dialogue of the book is good and logical, but in the context of a Biblical portrayal of God, it is arrogant, misleading, accomplishes more harm than good, and only serves as fuel for those that hate God. Likewise, only focusing on God’s love and grace and mercy also gives us a skewed understanding of who God is…he is not made in our image and we cannot make the mistake of fashioning him to be just like us. Just some words for thought. Love engaging this topic… I am quite on the other end of the spectrum, afterall.

    Btw, I enjoyed Lamb a few years back. Sacrilegious but quite possibly Christopher Moore’s most humorous book behind the Stupidest Little Angel. But did you consider that the promotion of either of these books may not be in alignment with a Christian perspective? Nudging your readers toward the Gospel would be more beneficial than promoting secular & demoralizing fiction.

    • Rocky Munoz, June 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm:

      Lindsay, thank you so much for your input! I really love hearing your thoughts on these posts. I admit that I was a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of God in Death: A Life. However, once I stopped to ask myself why I was bothered, I became much more okay with the portrayal of God as being stupid and mean. You see, I think that sometimes we as Christians can hold to some rather terrible ideas about God, and we feel okay doing so as long as we don’t take the time to really bring these beliefs to light and examine them. In fact, some believers get angry when someone tries to question or critique certain doctrines (I think) because they are afraid that if you look at some of these beliefs too closely you will have to abandon them. For this reason I love the portrayal of God in this book, because it elucidates everything that is wrong with some notions of God’s character. This is why I don’t mind pointing readers to these books, because (1) the style of the book clearly is intended to be humorous and imaginative, and (2) because it forces us to admit the terrible nature of God that we have to live with if we accept certain ideas.

      While it is true that we should not elevate one aspect of God over all others for selfish reason, it is not true that all aspects of God are equal. God is not a static 2-dimensional idea, He is a dynamic 3-dimensional Person. For this reason, though we ought not to neglect or reject attributes of God found in Scripture, it is perfectly appropriate to set some attributes as the standard (e.g., love) that other attributes (e.g., wrath, justice, sovereignty) must be understood in light of.

      Anyhow, thanks again for commenting. Feel free to push back against any of this :)


This is for security, and will never be published.