Every faithful Methodist that has lived up to and faithfully followed the requirements of his religion,... will have as great a heaven as he ever anticipated in the flesh, and far greater. Every Presbyterian, and every Quaker, and every Baptist, and every Roman Catholic member, - ... that lives according to the best light they have,... will have and enjoy all they live for... This is the situation of Christendom after death.
You may go among the Pagans, or among all the nations there are... and if they have lived according to what they did posses, so they will receive hereafter.
And will it be glory? you may inquire. Yes. Glory, glory, glory.
Brigham Young - President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 1847-77. Quoted in Wrestling the Angel by Terryl Givens, 2015, p253.
Givens goes on to cite Wilford Woodruff saying 'there will be few, very few, if any, who will not accept the Gospel'; meaning at some point in the endless time of post-mortal life. And Lorenzo Snow stating: 'very, very few of those who die without the Gospel will reject it on the other side of the veil' - meaning the veil of mortal death.
I was very pleased to see these, and other, endorsements of my own inferences about salvation (several times posted in this blog ever the past years) cited by Terryl Givens as typical of the Mormon Apostles and Prophets from the years up to the early 20th century (perhaps especially related to the Presidencies of Lorenzo Snow, and that of Joseph Fielding Smith who, in 1909, published an article called Salvation Universal); after which such near-universalist ideas of salvation became less often articulated, or contradicted.
But it is, from our perspective more than a century later, to notice that near-universalism with respect to salvation is Not universalism; not all are saved, because always there has to be the exception of the 'unpardonable sin' of the 'sons of perdition' - which recognises that human agency (or 'free will') means that a choice in favour of damnation may be made by a person; 'in perfect clarity and understanding' (p252).
As Givens says: 'It is unforgivable not because [the sin] is so grievous or offensive, but because it is the only sin a human can make with no mitigating circumstances that could be the basis of re-choosing under different conditions... Only the choice of evil made in the most absolute and perfect light of understanding admits of no imaginable basis for reconsideration or regret.'
Such a sin is comparable to that of Lucifer's, and as such there is no possibility of repentance. Hell has been chosen.
What we need to recognise is that the average Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Baptist or Roman Catholic of 2018 would not want the heaven that was desired by their namesakes of the middle 1800s - indeed, the modern adherents probably would not be considered Christians at all, by the men of the past.
And that brings us back to the Sons of Perdition and the strategy of the powers of evil for damning as many Men as possible...
If you accept (as I do) that Hell is ultimately only for those who want it, who actively-choose it (and all others will go to a degree of glory in accordance with their own deepest wishes - bearing in mind that apparently many or most people do not aspire to any very high degree of glory, if the promises of their religions are regarded as a guide) - then the task of the demons is a difficult one...
The demons must bring a Man to the point where he clearly understands what Heaven is, and that (thanks to the work of Jesus Christ) Heaven can be his dwelling at an astonishingly cheap price - And Yet, at this point of clarity and understanding; that Man will permanently reject this gift of Heaven and Glory; and instead choose Hell.
Let us suppose that that is the difficult task of the demons; then, for the powers of evil to win a human soul for Hell is, in most cases, not going to be easy...
Such was one of key, repeated, messages of CS Lewis in both The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce. And Lewis gave many hints towards an accurate prediction of what seems to have been the demons' answer in Screwtape Proposes a Toast - which is: to work gradually towards the inversion of Good. So that a Man will (overall) regard Good as evil, and evil as Good. Such a Man will regard Heaven as Hell; and by choosing his-personal-Good, he will in fact be choosing Hell.
This was, Lewis implies, a major strategic shift requiring great restraint on behalf of the demons; because it required them to set-aside the short-term gratifications of Men suffering and dying (as with the world wars of the early twentieth century); and instead to be contented with progress (decade by decade since the 1950s) towards a long-term goal of mass moral-, aesthetic- and truth-inversion among Western Men.
Men were to be corrupted by comfort, prosperity, materialism; by irony, hedonism and despair. By a pride so absolute and individual and cut-off; that it attained to solipsism: in doubt of its own existence, cynical of its own capacity for knowledge; and denying of external reality...
And the tremendous success of that demonic strategy explains the strange - unprecedented - nature of the modern condition, the way in which it resembles a self-chosen and cure-rejecting insanity. The average condition of modern Man is, in fact, the precise state of soul required to make someone actively choose Hell - in perfect clarity and understanding.
Note: I was not so clear or solidly confident as I am now; but I first made this kind of argument in Thought Prison (2011) and Addicted to Distraction (2014).
I completely agree with all you've said in this very wise post, Bruce.
I have recently discovered the web pages of the "Continuing Church of God", and have lately been reading them obsessively, as they seem to have very strongly biblically based teachings. (For example, they worship on the Sabbath rather than Sundays.) My intution is that they're closer to the truth than the large churches. By fortunate timing, I found this webpage explaining their beliefs on this subject just a day or two ago:
It essentially agrees with what you've said here, and provides a great deal of scriptural justification for it. Recommended reading (along with the rest of the site).
A heaven no better than I could imagine would not be heaven. If I were assured that all the things I dream of doing while alive, possible or not, would be my heavenly reward I would not be interested: Time travel, creating a great work of literature or cinema, space travel-- these pale with whenever inconceivable life is waiting for us after death.
The fleeting glimmers C.S. Lewis spoke of that come with every pure experience are more telling hints.
(In an episode of a long-ago anthology TV series, an American gangster dies and is surprised to find himself in a paradise where he has a mansion and anything he wants. He wenches, gambles, plays pool. He becomes bored, he says, with Heaven and asks to be sent to "the other place". He is informed that he is in The Other Place.)
A probst -
I guess one might say that Bruce "merely" desires glory :)
I would say that Heaven, or Hell, is what people sincerely desire to happen to others.
That is simply because what we experience in the afterlife will largely be other people like ourselves, people who ended up where we are for the same basic motives that put us there.
There is nothing so solipsist as a mirror world in which we meet only copies of ourselves, of course. There is great variety in Heaven. But the essential distinction that qualifies someone for any given level of Heaven or Hell is how they desire to treat others.
Because by that arrangement they will be able to so treat those they encounter and have that treatment be just and deserved.
@CCL - That's a good point.
Post a Comment