My Brother in a Box

My Brother in a Box

Recent happenings in the Evangelical world and the world as a whole have piqued my thinking to write about my brother, whom the last I knew, was in a box.

I quote from another of my brothers, Joe Cooper, who wrote in his book “Cooper History”, the following:

” If Lawrence Bernice Cooper had any honors, it would be that he sired eleven children.  they are Faith (b. 10/22/1946, d. 11/15/1946), Hope (b. 10/22/1946, d. 10/22/1946 – born dead), John Anthony (b. 1/15/1949), David Allen (b. 7/11/1952), Joseph Ray (b. 4/1/1956), Jannelle [sp] Marie (b. 6/28/1957), Marita Carol (b. 10/31/1960), Angela May (b. 11/26/1962), Paula Florence (b. 7/21/1965), Paul Lawrence (b. 7/21/1965, d. 4/30/1966).  As can be seen, Lawrence and Charity had two sets of twins.  Only one (Paula) survived.  At nine months of age, the lastborn, Paul, contracted quick pneumonia and died in a Terra Haute hospital.  It was an extremely sad time for the family.  Joe remembers how his father sat at his place at the end of the table and cried uncontrollably while he tried to talk to Myrtle Taylor.  Myrtle tried to console him but only time could do that.  Joe remembers Lawrence telling her as he sobbed, “I would rather have lost my whole farm than to have lost Paul.”  Myrtle responded by saying, “Oh now Lawrence, you would not!”  Lawrence thereupon replied, “Oh yes I would!  I would rather have lost my whole farm than to have lost Paul!”  Joe remembers to this day the agony and pain and misery in his father’s face.  It was the only time he saw him cry.

But pain was also felt when his first children were born.  They too were twins.  The date was October 22, 1946.  Charity screamed and yelled at thirty-year-old Lawrence to get her to the hospital.  Dad rushed her to the hospital and in the process collided with a city bus.  Hope was born dead.  Faith lived only three weeks.

But for those children who survived – perhaps that is the measure of Lawrence’s success in the world.  He worked hard in an effort to provide.  Not only did he farm his acreage, he also helped area farmers as a farmhand and grain hauler.  He was also an excellent gardener, raising more than enough for the family.”

I can add a little to that story my brother, Joe, may not know about….  I was the one at about 17 years old who drove my mother and brother, Paul, to the doctor when my mother first realized his sickness was serious.  I remember my father, Lawrence, telling me between the time Paul died and before his funeral, that my father had carried his son, Paul, my brother, out of the hospital that night in a little box.  My dad said in a chocking voice, “that is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life”….  I can remember now, that at my brother Paul’s funeral, it was the saddest thing I had experienced in my life at that time.  It was not an open casket funeral, to my recollection…

The last I remember, my brother Paul was still in that little box……

I think what prompts me to write about this is the virulent disagreement among some Christians concerning Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins”.  In the book Rob Bell offers hope for humanity, that all is not lost, that in the end, Love Wins.  Only a few will “go to hell”  and hell is not permanent, and other such thoughts that to some smack of the label, “Universalism”, perhaps first attributed to the early Christian father, Origen.  The criticism and controversy began even before the critics actually read the book…  The mere thought of the labels “Universalism”, and “Post-Mortem Evangelism”, and other such labels that have been applied to some Christians for centuries, seem to have brought this criticism out quickly.

May I ask, Is Evangelical Christianity locked up cognitively in a box?

Although Love Wins is written from a populist style, not a scholarly genre, can we as Christians, and others who have different belief systems at least imagine that God could even think this way?

Mr. Bell claims in his book that he is not a Universalist, and his reasoning is essentially, as I understand it, that man, given free will, will of necessity have a free will choice to reject God.  The vast majority, however, will be won over by God’s love in the end.

I could write in detail and bring up scriptures that support Mr. Bell’s viewpoints, and well as other scriptures that seem to disagree, but predominately, my viewpoint is the same as Rob Bell’s.

I will only refer to some of the scriptures I am thinking of and quote them from memory to avoid bogging down this article for now:

“As in Adam, all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

“All things in heaven and earth, and under the earth will be put under His feet.”

“At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess”

And, concerning Hell lasting forever, “death and hell will be cast into the grave”

“there shall be no more tears”

There are many, many others…..

I have discussed lately some of these Scriptures with my Evangelical brothers in Christ….  Some of them have said, and will say, “no, that is not what those scriptures mean”  Some have even been provoked by even thinking such thoughts…  Good!

Let’s all, including myself, get our minds out of the box we are in…..  Can we imagine that God might even change His mind, and so to speak reprogram the future, in view of our willingness to think of all the good things He could possibly do, as the God of possibilities?  Can we think of some good news, not bad news?

Can we think of a God who comes to judge, opening up the book of life, and will predominately judge almost everyone, excepting those who reject his goodness, Not Guilty!?

Can we think of this God, who scours the universe, and the those cast into the sea, perhaps the sea of Japan, and those beheaded and the head cast to pigs to eat, the body thrown into the river, the women and men impaled upon a stake, herded into a barn to be set on fire, fed to lions in the Roman Coliseum, or, even my brother, Paul, put into a box and buried before he ever had an opportunity to hear the Gospel (Good News, I might add), and either accept or reject Jesus?  Or, how about those aborted, or born dead?  How about those before the cross?  I am reminded of Isaiah 45, that one of my close Evangelical friends thankfully brought to my attention which also confirms that “every knee will bow and every tongue will swear”….Among other wonderful concepts of the Goodness of God portrayed by the prophet, Isaiah…..

Well, what about my brother, Paul, will he, or won’t he?

Will he be in hell forever?

I was thinking of this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Do you mean then that Hell – all that infinite empty town – is down in some little crack like this?”


“Yes. All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World [Heaven]. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.”


“It seems big enough when you’re in it, Sir.”


“And yet all loneliness, angers, hatreds, envies and itchings that it contains, if rolled up into one single experience and put into the scale against the least moment of the joy that is felt by the least in Heaven, would have no weight that could be registered at all. Bad cannot succeed in being bad as good is good. If all Hell’s miseries together entered the consciousness of yon wee yellow bird on the bough there, they would be swallowed up without trace, as if one drop of ink had been dropped into that Great Ocean to which your terrestrial Pacific itself is only a molecule.”

– The Great Divorce


To me, although not exactly the orthodox view of hell after Dante, this seems more like what I believe the Holy Spirit I personally believe I know would think about hell, if hell is not annihilation……  However, not having perfect knowledge, I yield to God’s Truth, whatever it is…

To me, to go to hell must be a choice, and to reject God who loves us must be a choice….  I believe hell is a choice we ourselves make, a choice we choose to live in now, and a choice we choose to inhabit if hell were to last through eternity.

Will the Scriptures be fulfilled by every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord, by force?  Or, will it be willing Love for Jesus, our Savior, once we see Him in the light of His glory?  Does Love win?  Or, does it not?

Which is it?

I am not God, and whatever it is, I Love God and believe He is just…

If I had my preference, I would like to see my brother, Paul, out of the box, again….  That would make my father happy too, and wipe away every tear from his eyes, forever….  unless he too is consigned to hell, as some who knew him believe….. (I do not.)  Will a father ever forget the ones he loves?  Will a Father ever forget the ones he loves?

If I had my preference, I would rather see some of my Evangelical Christian friends out of the box, again….  cognitively speaking…

I would like to see the whole world out of the box….  That would make me happy, and I really believe that would make my Father happy too!

For all, who have loved, and lost, let us hope together…  God is Good…


Grace & Peace,

John Cooper



About jcooperforpeace
Spiritual Director, Spirituality of Inner Peace

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