Monday 17 January 2022

Heaven - bliss or creating?

Some (many?) people seem to want Heaven to be a place of bliss, in which all is euphoric; and there is nothing unpleasant, nothing 'dysphoric'. 

A place and state in which all the possible modes of being are absolutely happy; and unhappiness is impossible.

But I regard Heaven as essentially a place of eternal commitment to love, in which our 'work' is to participate with God in creating

To be motivated to love and create seems to entail that we must be able to suffer considerably less-than-blissful states of being; we must Not be continually euphoric but must also experience (in some sense, albeit not exactly the same as in mortal life) the unpleasant, the unhappy; else we would not be motivated to create. 

Even love (the pre-requisite of Heaven) is something that is dynamic, happens through-time, moves through modes of being including the less-than-blissful. Heaven is like an ideal family; and even the best family at its best necessarily contains many emotions of sub-optimal happiness.

This is obvious and necessary, in that if happiness is optimized; then creation cannot be optimal - and vice versa. If we really do regard Heaven as the place where we work with God, with Jesus Christ, in the eternal and joyous task of creation - then we would not want to be blissfully happy at all times. 

I am not saying that in Heaven the nature of suffering is the same as earth, because that is not true. Much of our earthly suffering is due to sins such as fear, despair, resentment, guilt and so forth. These are absent from Heaven. 

Yet Heaven will include the good, divine passions, and the passions may make us sorrow and weep; even as Jesus sorrowed and wept - but in a context of absolute faith, hope and love. 

We should learn from earthly mortal life that times of the highest creation - whether that be the raising of young children, or works of art; or crafts, building, making... 

These states are not characterized but continuous unremitting bliss - even though they yield the deepest and most lasting satisfactions. 

In other words; the common idea of Heaven as nothing-but-bliss-forever... is something that needs to be set-aside and superseded if we are really to want what Jesus Christ is actually offering. 


Lucinda said...

I've talked with people about this idea of eternal life continuing with some sadness and frustration. Ironically, it has been a very sad and frustrating experience! Most don't want to hear it.

I suppose I can understand. When I started the shift in mindset, it felt a little depressing. But I have pressed on because I believe it to make sense and to be true. And I don't really feel that tiredness from sorrows that I used to when thinking about it. Now I am able to look forward to the satisfaction when a difficulty has been resolved. It's very heartening.

I think this is part of why people feel so uncomfortable about it, they can't see past the tiredness. I think it is sad though, because it makes life unnecessarily harder. Not that all difficulty can be removed, but difficulty from faulty beliefs certainly can be alleviated.

Stephen Macdonald said...

My goodness I'm glad you made this point Dr. Charlton. I had been planning to email you on this very topic. For some time, I've had more or less the exact same intuition about the necessity for "conflict" (resistance?) in Heaven, and of the role of melancholy and other non-euphoric states. Thank you!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I found The God Who Weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens to be helpful in this regard.

And I find the traditional mainstream Christian idea of a God without body, parts or *passions* (to quote one, protestant, formulation of the usual idea) to be an illegitimate usurpation of Christianity by pagan classical philosophy.

It puts The God of the Philosophers above God the 'Father' - and abstract understanding of 'deity' above a personal relationship with God.

Lucinda said...

Terryl Givens is sort of a mystery to me. I've never read any of his books (I'm not really a reader) but early on I was turned off because most of the hype about him came from Left-y Mormon types I didn't trust. My father-in-law, who knows TG professionally, assured me that the Left-y Mormons would be frustrated with TG's opinions against gay marriage, but I don't understand how he could get such a following of Leftists if he were... not a Leftist.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - Well, I am not a Mormon (except in my theology), so I can perhaps be more relaxed about these things; but my impression is that TG is a leftist, and has (like all unrepentant leftists) become more and more so with the years.

But his early works on Mormonism (up to 2014) were intelligent, scholarly, and very interesting - and did not strike me as subversive. He had a significant and important influence on me in understanding and coming to love and believe Mormon Theology (the other big influences were Sterling McMurrin - also a leftist and apostate Mormon, although a friend of the General Authorities -and Blake Ostler).

His wife Fiona seems much more leftist and subversive, and my impression is that The Crucible of Doubt in 2014 represented TG crossing a line into what I regard as uninteresting and misguided - i.e. domination by mainstream political correctness.

TG fails both the antiracist and sexual revolution 'litmus tests' (don't know about the others) - and you only need to fail one litmus test to be on the wrong side of the spiritual war.

So, make up your own mind!

Lucinda said...

Clever-silliness strikes again!

Good to know though, and glad you found the value in his work.