Friday 18 January 2019

Pie in the sky - the misrepresentation of Heaven

In casual public discourse - even in what purports to be serious stuff, and written by otherwise-intelligent and well-informed people - people grossly misrepresent Jesus's promise of life eternal as a paradisal 'reward' to compensate Christians for the miseries of this mortal life.

Or as a reward for 'being good' in mortal ife. 

Christian Heaven is thus falsely presented as a ludicrous, pathetic, or manipulated kind of wishful thinking.

Yet this is literally nothing like what Jesus is reported as saying in the Fourth Gospel.

Jesus says in that Gospel that we can reach the Kingdom of Heaven only via death, by being born again after death - resurrected to a higher form of eternal life, to become - indeed brothers and sisters of Jesus and fully divine ourselves. And this life eternal will be qualitatively greater than this life.

Nothing about a reward, nothing about a compensation, nothing about being good; instead it is a gift or a promise to those who have faith. And we must die to get it.

Death is necessary.

Apart from dying first; how do we get it? By following Jesus through death (as we recognise him as divine and our Good Shepherd, and trust him).

This life eternal entails love - it is implied that the Kingdom of Heaven is a life of love - Jesus describes this in some detail, like a web of love between himself, The Father, and the disciples.

Those who do not want love, who reject love; will not want life eternal, and will not have it forced upon them.

Those who regard this mortal life as all important will not want Heaven; those who believe or want annihilation at the end of mortality, disbelieve is Heaven, do not regard Jesus as divine nor as capable of offering us this gift.

All of these will exclude thenselves from Heaven, because of the different nature of their desires.


sykes.1 said...

The traditional Christian teaching was that we are resurrected as corporal bodies here on a purified Earth, the original Eden. The new Eden would include plants and animals, but be free of pain, disease, hunger, violence...

The idea of an ethereal Heaven populated by noncorporeal souls is not Christian, but it is gnostic. The Church Fathers rejected all forms of gnosticism, but Harold Bloom thinks it is the standard mode of all religions in America today, Mormonism being the prime example.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Sykes - I suppose you refer to Bloom's American Religion? It's an interesting book that is worth reading and makes some good points.

But Bloom makes a lot of errors about Mormonism - this being one of them. Mormons believe in a bodily resurrection and that God the Father has a body, as well as Jesus Christ. For Mormons, getting a body is probably the single most important aspect of our mortal incarnation. A body is necessary for further spiritual progression towards fuller divinity. e.g. Satan and the demons are pre-mortal spirits, denied bodies, which stops their progression.

Bloom probably makes lots of errors about the other religions too, but I don't know enough about them to detect them.

But this is hardly surprising when the book was essentially a short term project for Bloom - a piece of investigative journalism; at any rate Bloom is no expert on Mormonism, or Christianity for that matter!

Unknown said...

Bruce is absolutely correct, there is no Sky (we are resurrected to an eternal inheritance on a perfected earth, along with the beauties thereof, including flora and fauna)...
And no Pie either! Because Eternal Life involves real families, real creative work, real posterity (you read that right) short, the kind of Life the Father and the Son enjoy. No beatific vision nonsense, indeed, praising has recently been officially limited to two hours a week (read all about it on, "the new home/ church balance")...

The Crow said...

So what constitutes 'death'?
A millisecond of ego-free existence, perhaps?
And rebirth?
Freedom from all of one's past mistakes?

Spiritual Enlightenment is achieved by willingly 'dying for the cause'.
This is the supreme act of faith, in that the one doing it has absolutely no idea if one will survive the experience.
One effectively dies.

In this 'death', one is reborn, to experience the experience of Enlightenment.
After which, one returns to life, forever changed by the experience, if that is one's choice.

So, it would appear that Jesus had it right, as usual, while his admirers had it wrong, as usual.

No word means the same thing to anybody, even a word like 'death'.