He Descended into Hell

If you want some truly awful theology mixed in with some great theology that’s included by accident, a good place to start would be the 1998 film WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, starring Robin Williams.

Williams’ character (Chris) dies and goes to heaven, where everything he imagines becomes reality (which happens to be C.S. Lewis’ vision of hell in THE GREAT DIVORCE.  Go figure).  The strange thing is that God is conspicuously absent.  Inquiring about this, Chris is informed: “I guess God is still up there somewhere, wondering why we can’t hear him telling us how much he loves us.”

Meanwhile, Chris’s wife (Marie), distraught over her husband’s death, kills herself and goes to hell.  Apparently this is fine with with God and the rest of heaven’s blissed-out population.  But Chris does what love does: He mounts a rescue mission.  He escapes heaven and illegally immigrates into hell, braving its terrors to find his beloved and bring her home.

The theistic ‘god’ of the film is pathetic and useless.

He’s a perfect illustration of why I rejected theism and became a hardcore Trinitarian instead.

The only place in this film where we see the passion of the Trinity is in Chris.  Being without her is not an option.  Nothing will stop him from finding her.  Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no hell deep enough.  This is love, and it is beautiful. This is a Good Friday movie.

Today our Beloved shows us how far he has gone to find us.

We were dead in our transgressions, so he entered into death to find us, to be there with us in our agony and darkness, and to set us free.  It’s the simplest and best love story there is.

~ by John Stonecypher


No matter where you go

I will find you

If it takes a thousand years


3 comments so far

  1. Ted Johnston on

    Our Lord Jesus truly is the “hound of heaven” – he goes to any and all lengths to save us.

    See a sermon on this topic athttp://www.chapel.duke.edu/documents/sermons/sermon_300.pdf

    And here is the original poem by Francis Thompson:

    The Hound of Heaven

    I fled Him down the nights and down the days
    I fled Him down the arches of the years
    I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
    I hid from him, and under running laughter.
    Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated
    Adown titanic glooms of chasme d hears
    From those strong feet that followed, followed after
    But with unhurrying chase and unperturbe d pace,
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
    They beat, and a Voice beat,
    More instant than the feet:
    All things betray thee who betrayest me.

    I pleaded, outlaw–wise by many a hearted casement,
    curtained red, trellised with inter-twining charities,
    For though I knew His love who followe d,
    Yet was I sore adread, lest having Him,
    I should have nought beside.
    But if one little casement parted wide,
    The gust of his approach would clash it to.
    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
    Across the margent of the world I fled,
    And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
    Smiting for shelter on their clange d bars,
    Fretted to dulcet jars and silvern chatter
    The pale ports of the moon.

    I said to Dawn — be sudden, to Eve — be soon,
    With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
    From this tremendous Lover.
    Float thy vague veil about me lest He see.
    I tempted all His servitors but to find
    My own betrayal in their constancy,
    In faith to Him, their fickleness to me,
    Their traitorous trueness and their loyal deceit.
    To all swift things for swiftness did I sue,
    Clung to the whistling mane of every wind,
    But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
    The long savannahs of the blue,
    Or whether, thunder-driven,
    They clanged His chariot thwart a heaven,
    Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn of their feet,
    Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
    Still with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
    Came on the following feet, and a Voice above their beat:
    Nought shelters thee who wilt not shelter Me.

    I sought no more that after which I strayed
    In face of Man or Maid.
    But still within the little childrens’ eyes
    Seems something, something that replies,
    They at least are for me, surely for me.
    But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair,
    With dawning answers there,
    Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
    Come then, ye other children, Nature’s
    Share with me, said I, your delicate fellowship.
    Let me greet you lip to lip,
    Let me twine with you caresses,
    Wantoning with our Lady Mother’s vagrant tresses,
    Banqueting with her in her wind walled palace,
    Underneath her azured dai:s,
    Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
    From a chalice, lucent weeping out of the dayspring.

    So it was done.
    I in their delicate fellowship was one.
    Drew the bolt of Nature’s secrecies,
    I knew all the swift importings on the wilful face of skies,
    I knew how the clouds arise,
    Spume d of the wild sea-snortings.
    All that’s born or dies,
    Rose and drooped with,
    Made them shapers of mine own moods, or wailful, or Divine.
    With them joyed and was bereaven.
    I was heavy with the Even,
    when she lit her glimmering tapers round the day’s dead sanctities.
    I laughed in the morning’s eyes.
    I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
    Heaven and I wept together,
    and its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.
    Against the red throb of its sunset heart,
    I laid my own to beat
    And share commingling heat.

    But not by that, by that was eased my human smart.
    In vain my tears were wet on Heaven’s grey cheek.
    For ah! we know what each other says,
    these things and I; In sound I speak,
    Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
    Nature, poor step-dame, cannot slake my drouth.
    Let her, if she would owe me
    Drop yon blue-bosomed veil of sky
    And show me the breasts o’ her tenderness.
    Never did any milk of hers once bless my thirsting mouth.
    Nigh and nigh draws the chase, with unperturbe d pace
    Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
    And past those noise d feet, a Voice comes yet more fleet:
    Lo, nought contentst thee who content’st nought Me.

    Naked, I wait thy Love’s uplifted stroke. My harness, piece by piece,
    thou’st hewn from me
    And smitten me to my knee,
    I am defenceless, utterly.
    I slept methinks, and awoke.
    And slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
    In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
    I shook the pillaring hours,
    and pulled my life upon me.
    Grimed with smears,
    I stand amidst the dust o’ the mounded years–
    My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
    My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
    Have puffed and burst like sunstarts on a stream.
    Yeah, faileth now even dream the dreamer
    and the lute, the lutanist.
    Even the linked fantasies in whose blossomy twist,
    I swung the Earth, a trinket at my wrist,
    Have yielded, cords of all too weak account,
    For Earth, with heavy grief so overplussed.
    Ah! is thy Love indeed a weed,
    albeit an Amaranthine weed,
    Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
    Ah! must, Designer Infinite,
    Ah! must thou char the wood ‘ere thou canst limn with it ?
    My freshness spent its wavering shower i’ the dust.
    And now my heart is as a broken fount,
    Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
    From the dank thoughts that shiver upon the sighful branches of my

    Such is. What is to be ?
    The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind ?
    I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds,
    Yet ever and anon, a trumpet sounds
    From the hid battlements of Eternity.
    Those shaken mists a space unsettle,
    Then round the half-glimpse d turrets, slowly wash again.
    But not ‘ere Him who summoneth
    I first have seen, enwound
    With glooming robes purpureal; Cypress crowned.
    His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
    Whether Man’s Heart or Life it be that yield thee harvest,
    Must thy harvest fields be dunged with rotten death ?

    Now of that long pursuit,
    Comes at hand the bruit.
    That Voice is round me like a bursting Sea:
    And is thy Earth so marred,
    Shattered in shard on shard?
    Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest me.
    Strange, piteous, futile thing;
    Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
    Seeing none but I makes much of Naught (He said).
    And human love needs human meriting —
    How hast thou merited,
    Of all Man’s clotted clay, the dingiest clot.
    Alack! Thou knowest not
    How little worthy of any love thou art.
    Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
    Save me, save only me?
    All which I took from thee, I did’st but take,
    Not for thy harms,
    But just that thou might’st seek it in my arms.
    All which thy childs mistake fancies as lost,
    I have stored for thee at Home.
    Rise, clasp my hand, and come.
    Halts by me that Footfall.
    Is my gloom, after all,
    Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
    Ah, Fondest, Blindest, Weakest,
    I am He whom thou seekest.
    Thou dravest Love from thee who dravest Me.

  2. Pastor Jonathan on

    I had never seen the whole poem before, thanks for sharing it with us!

  3. Richard Pullin on

    Hi John: It’s good to read your writings again. You always impressed me with your ability for deep though. I note your comment “He’s a perfect illustration of why I rejected theism and became a hardcore Trinitarian instead.” I’m not sure if I understand this statement. I mean isn’t Trinitarianism a form of theism? And hence how can you reject theism when Trinitarianism is part of theism itself?

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