The Long, Dark Eternity of One Soul

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I met Douglas Adams at my first MacWorld in 1997. I was manning the technology demonstration booth for Apple when he popped his head in to ask me a question. It took all of a split second to know who he was just by sight. After all, he was my favorite author. No set of books made me laugh more than The Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy,” and humor is darned hard to write.

So there I was, starstruck.

Adams and I chatted about his upcoming computer game, Starship Titanic, and how it was taking forever to debug and get perfect. Talk shifted to upcoming Apple hardware. As an Apple Master, a sort of celebrity endorser and Mac evangelista, Adams received complementary equipment from Apple. We must’ve talked for a half hour about what was coming down the pike.

I didn’t see Adams again until MacWorld 2000. At that time, I was no longer working for Apple but did high-end Mac support for NASA as a contractor. Because I gave hardware and software advice to NASA honchos, I got to go to MacWorld. Can you hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth?In the tunnel under the street that connected exhibition halls, I ran into Adams again and went up to say hello. He recognized me right away and noted my tag said that I was now at NASA. We talked about that, then I shifted the conversation to talk of a Hitchhiker’s movie. Adams told me he had just completed what he thought would be the basis of the  screenplay. I was elated, but I could tell Adams was frustrated with the progress. He told me the screenplay-writing process had really taken it out of him. He added that Starship Titanic‘s underwhelming sales had been a disappointment and that he didn’t want to see that happen with the Hitchhiker’s movie.

We talked until the surreal happened: Sinbad, the comedian, walked up and joined the conversation. The three of us, all above 6′ 3″, dominated the center of the tunnel as people streamed around us. But though I’m a raging extrovert and conversationalist, I met my match in Sinbad; I sensed that it was time for to me to bow out. I said goodbye and hustled on my way.

A little over a year later, Adams died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

As much as I thought I knew something about Adams, it somehow did not dawn on the me that the man was known as one of the world’s foremost atheists. (Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion is dedicated to Adams.) Looking back at Adams’s writings now, I wonder how I could have missed it.

In a way, my naïveté didn’t matter. Here was a man, like most men, estranged from God. Estranged at a level so deep that he had rejected the existence of all spirituality. There I am, a representative of Jesus Christ. And yet with that man mere months away from eternity, the contents of my last words to him were wood, hay, and stubble.

Today, I sit here typing and my soul grieves. It weeps because I am not serious about eternity. Next to nothing in my life  manifests my belief that an eternal hell is real. When I look around, what scares me more than anything is that I’m more serious about hell than most Christians are.  Yet my actions speak louder than words.

It seems to me that all Christians must deal with the truth that they themselves deserved hell before Jesus saved them. People may deal with it at different times in their Christian walk, but deal with it they must.

But what separates a real disciple of Christ from a DINO (Disciple in Name Only) is that the real disciple stares into the pit of hell and is so shaken by the view that all distractions in this life pale compared with working to get the Gospel out to the lost, no matter the personal costs.

I don’t think enough of us Christians are getting to that point. What else explains the feebleness of our outreach to the lost? We live as if there were no eternity at all.

Just like the atheists do.

23 thoughts on “The Long, Dark Eternity of One Soul

  1. Peter P

    Dan,

    I am a hitchikers fan. I also love some of his other stuff like Dirk Gently – I learned how to navigate from him!

    It is so easy for us to get caught up in the things of this world, and no-one could blame you for conversing the way you did with Mr Adams, but that’s the whole point isn’t it – no-one would blame you for conversing that way and therefore no-one would be encouraging you to do it differently.

    We do all need to be thinking about eternity (did you see the video about Penn from Penn and Teller talking about prosyletising?) but we don;t think about it enough and thus we don’t encourage each other to think about it (and talk about it) enough.

    Thank you for reminding me that I need to be thinking about the eternal destiny of those I meet not just their present concerns and needs.

    I’ll try to keep reminding others too!

    God bless you Dan!

    Peter

  2. Exactly!

    My pastor says that we live our lives (as believers) as “practical atheists”.

    But this is because we are, at heart, self-obsessed idolators.

    Full-blown sinners all.

    That is, of course, why Christ had to come (wanted to come) and save us.

    And then, He uses us, even our sin, to accomplish His purposes.

  3. George

    Another excellent insight, Dan.

    DINO is an acronym worth saving.

    Yes, we all deserve hell. And hell is something we should all want to escape. However, if we try to persuade others to do what’s necessary to escape it, are we ever going to be successful?

    I need to follow Christ, not turn from hell-bent behavior. “Accepting” Christ primarily to obtain what’s good for me — is that actually accepting Christ?

    Perhaps we must begin with recognizing the evidence of God, then proceed thru recognizing that we matter to God, that Jesus is the way to God as Father, and that following is the decision which makes the relationship.

    Adams is not estranged because of something you did not do. But you and I both are less pleasing to Him because our lives are not consistent reflections of the gospel.

    While neither of us can change our past witness, we certainly both can change our present and future witness.

    But, Dan, please do not sell short your witness in this blog. You are a blessing I too infrequently give thanks for.

  4. Josh

    I love Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. I never knew that Adams was an Atheist, although it doesn’t surprise me. He certainly didn’t have any problem poking fun at his own beliefs then heheh.

    I’ve got mixed feelings about hell though. Yeah I think it’s compelling that we don’t want people to suffer, but on the other hand, I do firmly believe that Christianity isn’t just about Fire Insurance, I think it’s important to seek God because he deserves it based on who and what he is, not because of what he does for us. I’m afraid that the fear of hell can lead many people to love, not God, but the gift that he gives us.

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  6. Normandie

    We recently watched two movies that have been around for a long time–Rendition and The Siege–and got to talking after the second one about how God has given us as individuals and us as nations chance after chance to follow Him. Instead, we’ve gone our own way and made a mess of things. We’ve wanted to be king if not god of our own life. We want what we want and we want it now. The US and much of the world now faces the consequences of those choices, consequences that I believe will become even more severe in the days to come, but what are we as Christians supposed to do — and what WILL we do?

    So many churches I’ve attended cry out for the Lord’s return, expecting it momentarily and expecting to be zapped out of the mess. They seem not to notice that all around them are lost souls who will stay lost if something doesn’t happen to intervene. I see so many around me, in my family, among my friends, here in Mexico where demon worship is prevalent. Hell stares a whole lot of clueless people in the face.

    Our prayers last night carried this burden for the lost — as they so often do. But we want to do more, see more, affect more. We want to be willing and able and anointed and appointed and ready to show the lsot the way, to tell them when they ask, to live before them so they’ll want to ask….

    So often we feel like failures. How many have we actually seen come to know Jesus? How many more are there who need Him?

    Lord, have mercy. Lord, in your wrath, remember mercy. We all deserve a terrible judgement. Those of us in Christ have experience His mercy. Those outside haven’t. Help them to know, O Lord. Open their ears and their eyes. And use us. Each one of us.

  7. I believe we must deal with our intimidation also. I just used the Penn Jillette video as a jumping off point also to blog about this topic.

    As Penn says, if we really believe what we say and if we really love as we should, we have to speak out. I think we fail for various reasons and one of them is that our focus is on the here and now instead of eternity, as you suggest.

    Another is the intimidation factor we have to deal with. What would the church be today if the apostles and the early church fathers had our mindset?

    I don’t link to my articles without permission but you can reach my site through my name and let me know what you think.

    Love you all

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  9. Dan,

    I can remember a time in my life, years ago, when I was on a business trip. I had the opportunity not share the Gospel with a woman I was speaking to and she was so ready to hear it. I told myself that it was not a subject we are to talk about in the “corporate” world. Then I got on my plane and flew home. Everytime I think about it I pray for her and ask God to show mercy on her, send someone more faithful than me.

    I did a study on Grace from Kay Arthur and I found a couple of things she pointed out to be interesting. First, we have not been teaching sin very well. She observed that many children no longer know the ten commandments. If people do not know what sin is then how do they know they need a Savior.
    Romans 3:19-20
    “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”

    Second, many times when Christains share the Gospel they communicte that Jesus came to save us from hell. BUT that is not true He came to save us from sin, hell is the consquence of our sin. If we do not teach that He came to save us from sin, then how does a person have true repentance and understand how great His grace is.

    Thanks for sharing this blog. Here is to a BOLDER year for all us in sharing His great Gospel.

  10. Dave

    Thanks for your words Dan. I am very humbled and sorrowful over my lack of passion for the lost. My timidity is grievous. Thanks for your transparency. I’m looking for God to help me proclaim Him with a sense of urgency and with a heart of obedience and love.

  11. jeff curtis

    The Word of God says that we should be ready in season and out of season, also that we should have our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel. In the Revelation of Jesus as written by John “we overcame by the word of our testimony. If we don’t have a testimony then how can we be overcomers’. When my life has had such a radical overhaul as Jesus is accomplishing in my life then I have something to share not that I can boast of anything I have done but only in what the Spirit of God has been working in this His workmanship. So I must examine myself daily to see the transformation that God is working.

  12. Nonine

    Thank you for a good reminder to us all.
    Many years ago something similar to this happened to me.

    May I encourage you to learn from it. Be alert, be aware and look for the opportunities the Lord gives you to open your mouth and lift up the name of Jesus to others. If we are rejected, then so what? At least we loved them enough to offer them life.

    Don’t walk in self condemnation, but lift up your head and now be ready for the next opportunity the Lord gives you.

    His mercies are new every morning.

    As we walk into this new year, may we all live in word and deed our faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

    • Nonine,

      I think one reason that people are hesitant to witness is that more is required of people apologetically than once may have been the case. The number of competing worldviews has never been higher. Also, to make disciples requires more than handing out tracts; the lost require us to be more involved in their day-to-day lives. All that requires time, and few of us have it. So we don’t evangelize.

  13. ianmcn

    Great post Dan, echo’s some of my recent thoughts quite closely. The question I have is what would a perfect Christian look like in today’s culture? On the one hand you have people that boldly and courageously proclaim the gospel in their workplace at every opportunity but mainly create tension and irritation. On the other hand, you have people (more like me) who try to be a witness in their lives, and who everyone know’s is a practising christian but doesn’t ram their faith down people’s throat. That second descriptions sounds very noble, but does there not need to be a greater sense of urgency about our witness like you say? However, the person of the former description may have created so much division between themselves and their colleagues that non-believers don’t give them any access into their lives. There’s got to be something that combines the urgency of the former with the love and genuine friendship of the latter – but I’m yet to find it!

    • ianmcn,

      The sweet spot is in the middle of the two sides you describe. Be kind, be a servant, be gentle, but definitely let people know what the truth is. The wisdom comes from listening to the Spirit about when people are ready to move beyond the easy stuff and to the hard truth.

  14. Quote: ” I sit here typing and my soul grieves.”

    Dan, you carry the world on your shoulders, and once again have found another way to blame yourself (as if you were the only evangelist living on earth and therefore fell down on the job for not preaching to Adams, who had thousands of opportunities to repent—for Heaven’s sake, give God some credit for having the ability to make himself known). But this is what makes your blog so tiresome to read because there’s nothing more irksome than watching someone constantly beating himself to a miserable pulp over everything.

    Do yourself a favor, Dire Dan, and act like you believe that you’re forgiven. Doing that would much more honor XP, who paid a lot to make that possible, than constantly harping about how much you deserved Hell.

  15. I was delighted to find that you had visited my humble blog.

    And as I sit and read thru your soul questions.. and read the comments..
    Something keeps jumping out at me..

    It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make a person ready to
    hear and understand the need for Salvation. And the solution
    that God the Father provided.

    And…
    Yes, as believers we have been given the Great Commission,
    and Yes we are to go and make disciples,but to those that
    and brought to us, so that we do not further harden their hearts.

    Perhaps you did, as we all do at times, allow our comfort zone to keep us quiet.. Or perhaps, his soul was so hardened that only at the knowledge of his death, would he be able to accept the Truth..

    I know that when someone I love has zealously refused the truth..
    all I can do is move back,not away.. and pray, and allow the
    Holy Spirit to continue his work.

    God Bless and Keep you…

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