Book Review | Questioning faith
Heaven’s Open Book
Author: Sheldon Peart
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
Heaven’s Open Book lends new meaning to the biblical adage: ‘’Judge not lest ye be judged.’ Author Sheldon Peart encapsulates his defining message in the preface: “...some ardent Christians have become preoccupied with the ‘grievous’ sins of ‘unbelievers,’ and in the process, have overlooked their own dilemma.”
Peart calls for reflection as the Church stumbles. No greater counsel is there.
He raises issues plaguing the church, issues that have been swept under the rug, glossed over by arrogance and genuine psychopathology. The church has always been plagued by crookedness and has arguably become a shelter for the neurotic. Bereft of professional help, some members project their disorders during worship. We glean the gravity of this problem in the form of glossolalia as the deluded hold private exchanges with God, a subject Peart is reluctant to address, neither does he cover predatory sexual abuse and paedophilia. But he brings so much more to the table, highlighting the furtive world of philandering and adultery that have devalued the institution.
Peart’s tales of intolerance and hypocrisy are instructive.
In one scene, the daughter of a deacon and educator errs, becoming an unexpected mother. Brutally uncompromising is the reaction of her parents.
- “I’ll kill you, whoring slut. You are a disgrace to me...everything I have done and lived for, you’ve destroyed”
“Look...[for] our love and sacrifice and this is how she has repaid us? She is a wicked viper not fit to share our Christian roof.”
“You have to leave our roof, Suzie. We want no part with fornicators and adulterers. We’re decent Christian people, well respected in the church and community. We can do without this disgrace.”
They parents are later rebuked, reminded of their own frailties
- “Are you so pure, “lily white,” and “ready to ascension?”
In another tale, we learn the true meaning of repentance; that it is not enough to ask God for forgiveness; but “if we have done something wrong it is our duty to own up, regardless of the consequences.”
Peart imaginatively injects biblical prophecy into his work. Fantastical scenes of the Rapture are vividly captured. There is gnashing of teeth amid raging conflagrations. There are “terrible cries of anguish,” as “darkness shrouded the heavens, transforming it into the dead of night.”
Those who live by the sword will die by the sword, as foretold by pre-millennialists. The righteous, on the other hand, will be swept up by the Redeemer. “They swished past planets and stars, and unnamed heavenly bodies.” Their abode is safe, a sanctuary and meed long promised to the faithful.
But the denizens of this celestial mansion are not only mesmerized by the magic of their surroundings. With raised eyebrows, they greet each other, startled by their good fortune. Who would have ever thought? Surely, those who struggled with vices and were long-condemned are befuddled as they walked through the pearly gates. “We made it,” they uttered with incredulity.
But the self-righteous, those who assured themselves of God’s favour are absent.
For sure, judgement is ever just. Every detail is inscribed in a Book, a record, in real time, of man’s every deed. The book is accessed by the blessed who yearn to learn the fate of loved ones, loved ones who once boasted of Christian virtue. But their deceit and hypocrisy are laid bare for all to witness.
Scenes of sexual duplicity are archived and readily played. No stones are left unturned. And also revealed are behaviours we somehow accept or trivialize. Gossiping, pride, selfishness, impatience and gluttony are all duly recorded.
Notable is doctrinal superiority of which Heaven warns, “You must understand that absolute truth resides with God alone...Hence, there will be differences in the interpretation and understanding of certain references in the Bible, until brighter light is shone. But tolerance is the Holy Spirit’s gift to the Christian.”
And of anxiety, it is called a sin, for it is “the opposite of trust in God. You must exercise your faith...”
‘Heaven’s Open Book’ comes to an unexpectedly refreshing end, a twist that demonstrates creativity and fine authorship.
Peart ‘s work offers a meaningful diagnosis of today’s Church. Authentic and anecdotally rich, it is a reminder that we must labour toward our own salvation and not peer into the hearts of other men. No man knows the hour; and surely no man knows what rests in the bosom of those we are quick to condemn.
Heaven’s Open Book by Sheldon Peart
Copyright 2018 by Sheldon Peart
Available at Amazon
Ratings: Highly Recommended