Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Heaven described as static or dynamic

There are two very contrasting views of Heaven that are held by people who regard themselves as Christians - one as a static state, the other as dynamic.

There are, of course, other possible views of how Heaven might be - since the only essential trait is that Heaven must be Heavenly, must be pleasing and enjoyable in an ultimate sense.

But the static and dynamic concepts of Heaven have characteristics that are opposite. Actual Heaven could be a mixture of them only at a superficial level - and deep down, the reality Heaven must be one or the other but not both.

I will explain them in terms of a list of contrasting paired descriptive words:

Static                           Dynamic

Peace                           Joy
Completion                Creating
Rest                             Energy
Stillness                      Developing, growing
Home                          Family
Presence                     Friendship
Bliss                             Love
No questions              Evermore answers
Certainty                     Increasing understanding 
Infallible                     Expanding vistas
Out-of-Time                In-Time    
Lost individuality       The same 'self'
Impersonal                  Personal
Everybody same         Each person different

You can see that the dynamic Heaven has a lot of 'ing' words, representing change; whereas the static Heaven is about an unchanging state of existence.

Regular readers will know that I believe that the Heaven offered us by Jesus Christ (especially in the Fourth Gospel) is the 'dynamic' Heaven.

But the point I wish to make here is simply that there are people who want the static Heaven; they want it deeply - it is the Heaven that they want. Of this I am sure.

Now, whether these people would be satisfied by static Heaven for eternity - I don't really know. It might be suggested that they would become bored at nothing happening. On the other hand, they would not be aware of any passage of Time - so why should they become bored?

But it could be said of dynamic Heaven that people would get exhausted and frustrated by never ever achieving final satisfaction, and the tedium of Time stretching ahead for ever...

One answer is that Heaven has 'many mansions' - in other words, different sub-Heavens for different people. I'm sure that is true - but ultimately the reality cannot be both of the above; if one of them is real, then the other is a subjective illusion. If one is the truth of Heaven the other must be a mistaken interpretation.

Either way, my point is that some people response to the list of characteristics of static Heaven with a heartfelt yearning: that is what they most want for themselves.

This means that any specified description of Heaven we may give to another person - to explain what Jesus has promised to his followers - is likely to put-off some people, even as it attracts others. This might be taken to imply we should keep our description of Heaven very vague and abstract - but that sounds evasive and uncertain - and will put-off those whose deepest hope is for a dynamic Heaven.

So if we are definite and precise concerning Heaven - it will attract some and repel others; but speaking in broad generalisations, or claiming ignorance of something so vitally important, will not work any better!

Thus the nature of Heaven has become one of the key issues for modern Christianity; and a subject which deserves a great deal more attention than it has customarily received in the mainstream and orthodox denominations.


William Wildblood said...

When you look at these two forms of heaven it's really like night and day or being asleep and being awake. I think the true heaven must comprise elements of both but the only one that can comprise elements of both is the dynamic heaven so I see that as the full and true heaven and the other as only a partial incomplete one.

Reuben said...

Would you say that "being" is dynamic or static? It initially seems static...but perhaps instead it is the static description of a dynamic existence?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - That's how I thin about it too.

@R - "Would you say that "being" is dynamic or static?" The answer depends how you define 'being'. The defnition for the static Heaven folk might be something like: a state of aliveness with retained receptivity, but not separateness of self nor self-awareness. Or, some people seem to yearn for total re-absorption into the unified divineness - in which case there would be no separate awareness, the distinct self would be annihiliated.

Sean G. said...

I suspect most people who want a static heaven don't have joyful family lives. It's hard to imagine not wanting that to continue.

A static heaven must seem like a great relief to many.

Bruce Charlton said...

@sean - I agree. It seems clear that many people want nothing more than peace, rest, sleep etc - as is clear from many inscriptions on tombs.

Of course, there are plenty of passages in the Gospels in which Jesus offers peace - yet there the context shows that he meant something more and different from rest, quietness etc.

G. said...

Very insightful question. it's been rattling around in my head for days.