f The Wittenberg Door: Fear and the Last Judgment

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fear and the Last Judgment

I became a Christian in 1987 at the age of 18. I wasn’t looking for God, but He was clearly looking for me. An ex-girlfriend of my roommate invited me to go to church with her. She was hot; I was board; so why not? Worship was not on my mind as the service began, but something happened. I suddenly became aware that I was lost; that God was terribly angry with me; and that I needed to be made right with Him. I sat in the seat and wept bitterly. Everything had changed.

Peter Hitchins, brother of famous atheist Christopher Hitchins, also had an unexpected conversion. Kevin DeYoung posts an excerpt from Peter Hitchin's book describing the event at his site:

What I can recall, very sharply indeed, is a visit to the Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, a town my girlfriend and I had gone to mainly in search of the fine food and wines of Burgundy. But we were educated travelers and strayed, guidebook in hand, into the ancient hospital. And there, worth the journey according to the Green Michelin guide, was Rogier van der Weyden’s fifteenth-century polyptych The Last Judgment.

I scoffed. Another religious painting! Couldn’t these people think of anything else to depict? Still scoffing, I peered at the naked figures fleeing toward the pit of hell, out of my usual faintly morbid interest in the alleged terrors of damnation. But this time I gaped, my mouth actually hanging open. These people did not appear remote or from the ancient past; they were my own generation. Because they were naked, they were not imprisoned in their own age by time-bound fashions. On the contrary, their hair and, in an odd way, the set of their faces were entirely in the style of my own time. They were me and the people I knew. One of them — and I have always wondered how the painter thought of it — is actually vomiting with shock and fear at the sound of the Last Trump.

I did not have a “religious experience.” Nothing mystical or inexplicable took place — no trance, no swoon, no vision, no voices, no blaze of light. But I had a sudden, strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day, not imprisoned under thick layers of time. A large catalogue of misdeeds, ranging from the embarrassing to the appalling, replayed themselves rapidly in my head. I had absolutely no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned.

You can read the entire account here, as well as pastor DeYoung's comments.

--The Catechizer



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