Posted by: John Adams | September 8, 2008

Tom Sawyer Is Keeping Me Sane

Groggy, disoriented, and sleep-deprived, I stumbled off the bus and into L’Abri last week. I arrived in Aigle, the town at the base of the mountain, by train only to find out that the bus takes a siesta every afternoon from 2 to 5 (it was roughly 2:00). So I had to wait for the next one, which took about three hours. By the time I arrived, I was in no mood to talk to anyone.

Since then, things have been better. I settled in, mowed a lawn, met some people, went to a pub and had a beer, listened to a couple of lectures, and read a book. I met with George, my mentor, and told him what I’d been thinking about studying. He recommended a few books and I got to reading them during study hours. The first, Four Views on Hell, took a look at the literal, metaphorical, conditional, and purgatorial views. The literal (hell is real fire) view was the most familiar, followed by the metaphorical (hell is eternal conscious suffering, but fire and darkness are symbols for something else), which I found easiest to believe. I was not entirely convinced, but intrigued nonetheless, by conditional immortality, whose proponents argue that immortality of the soul is an idea stemming from Greek philosophy, not Scripture. Under this view, resurrection of the body is something God does only to the righteous. The wicked simply cease to exist. Intriguing, and easier to wrap your mind around than eternal conscious torment, but it’s sort of difficult to believe Hitler’s reward for years of pre-planned genocide would be to feel…absolutely nothing…forever.

I am also reading N.T. Wright’s “Surprised By Hope,” which is quite good (and considerably less depressing), as well as Miroslav Volf’s “Exclusion & Embrace” (which I began after realizing that hell is too narrow a topic for study – I needed to broaden my study to look at the nature of evil and how God deals with it through the atonement). That one is quite good as well – Volf is a Croat who looks at racism & other-hatred through the lens of one whose family was affected by the Balkan conflicts of the 1990’s.

Hell & evil are quite depressing topics. In my downtime, I’ve been reading “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” just to keep myself sane.

Over the last couple of days in particular, I’ve been getting really lonely – I haven’t connected very deeply with anyone here yet. Most of the kids here are disaffected evangelicals – kids pissed off at the church. There’s a lot of drinking, smoking, and cussing, a lot of kids doing what their parents wouldn’t let them do back home. Not that I have any problem with that – it’s just been kind of difficult to relate to people who have a chip on their shoulder. I don’t have one on mine. I’m not angry at anyone. My parents and I disagree on some things, but for the most part, I think they did a good job. I still believe the church is Jesus’ bride, worth living and dying for. I kissed dating goodbye and still think that was a pretty good idea, although I’m not dogmatic about it.

I’m not allowed on the Internet until after 7pm, and I’m paying by the minute, so this post isn’t going to be very well-written. I just thought it was probably about time to update you guys on my goings-on. I know you hang upon my every written word.

If anyone wants to e-mail, write, or otherwise contact me, I’d much appreciate it. I am feeling every mile of my separation from North America. I talked to George, my  mentor, today about it and he said these things take time. He said that most people pine for home for the first couple of weeks, then make the transition and never want to leave. I don’t know if I’m quite that enthusiastic about being a half-hour’s bus ride from any sort of civilization, but I’ll sure I’ll eventually make the leap as well.

Hope you’re all doing well. I’ll talk to you soon.




  1. John! We love you! I told Gabe about the conflict in Croatia (but I’m afraid not too well, something about some group hating the other.) We’re thinking of you, talking about you, and, yes, I’m convinced that some are even praying for you. (Which brew?) Matt won’t post anything on any blog for at least two years because he is drowning in assignments, but he looks forward to the thought of at least thinking about the idea of perhaps writing to you with pen and paper. (Though it’s gonna’ be one heck of a stamp!)

    Suggestion: Write your blog in MS Word before pasting it into your blog, if you can. Might save minutes.

  2. Hang in there, John. This may prove to be a very rewarding time of study and reflection.

    Know that you’re sorely missed.


  3. John, you’re already learning. You’ll remember the day you thought it was awful to be a 30minute busride from civilization. You’ll crave it someday. Also, to some degree, L’Abri sounds like summer camp for spoiled teenagers. I’m sure it’s not. Anyway, I am puke green with envy. I’d love to have that opportunity, but then again, I’m old and unstable in mind. I’ll write. Big changes to tell you about. By the way, I’m not too concerned about Hitler. He’s gone. That’s what’s important. But there’s plenty of similar evil in our hearts on any given day. That’s worth our concern. mike

  4. Take heart, John. You may be far but you’re not forgotten.

  5. whattup John?!!!!….i wanted to write ya something a little personal, so check out ur myspace when u get a chance cuz i left ya a little email on there for ya…btw, i wired some money to ya via Western Union, cuz i don’t want u suffering from lack of beer there @ ol L’Abri, knowwhatimean?…love u and miss u bro 🙂

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