Undiscovered Country

Imagining the World to Come

Peter S. Hawkins

Jan/2009, 122 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9781596271074



Why do most contemporary Christians pull a blank when it comes to imagining a life with God after death?

Although the Bible is largely silent on the issue, our world is completely riveted by the up-to-date visions of heaven and hell that stock bookstore shelves and are found everywhere on the Internet. But what are believers to think and to say about the “undiscovered country” that is the life to come—from the pulpit, at the hospital, or in our daily lives?

Peter Hawkinsoffers a fresh way to pose these questions, along with an imaginative framework for answering them. He challenges all of us, not just preachers, to think of Dante’s drama of the afterlife—heaven, hell and purgatory—as a true story describing the lives we are living now. To this end Hawkins uses the Divine Comedy to help us imagine what happens when we die as he works his way through Christian tradition, contemporary culture, a rich array of literature, and his own personal experience.

Peter S. Hawkins is professor of religion and literature at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. A leading scholar in the field of religion and literature, his books include Dante's Testaments, The Poet's Dante, The Language of Grace, and a four-volume series, Listening for God: Contemporary Literature and the Life of Faith.

“Hawkins trusts a God who is rooted in human love even when that love is predictably frail or goes pitifully awry. He is a student of what it means to be 'up to love,' no matter how painful the lesson, which makes him the best kind of teacher. In the end, I think, that is what drives this book: his wish to teach us that our imagination of the afterlife has power to change our lives now.” —Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Leaving Church

“A dazzling teacher, preacher, and scholar, Peter Hawkins is also a man possessed by big questions, not least whether life in this world is a dress rehearsal of sorts or the Big Show itself. This is beautiful book, attentive to the holiness of things not only as we imagine them to be, but also as they actually are.” —Stephen Prothero, author of the prize-winning Religious Literacy

“In this lovely book, Peter Hawkins meditates upon Dante and the afterlife—the greatest of poets, the highest of hopes—with the art, insight, and generosity that these noble subjects deserve. His short text lingers long in the memory, calling believer and skeptic alike to ponder more deeply and imagine more richly the fate that awaits us all.” —Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing series

“Like Dante, Peter Hawkins is a master lay theologian. And like the Divine Comedy itself, whose cadences echo through these pages, his Beecher lectures deftly marry ascetic longings to aesthetic delights, and accomplish the task with wit, passion, and a stunning erudition both dearly won and lightly worn.” —Roger Ferlo, Virginia Theological Seminary

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