Saturday 23 December 2023

Why don't modern Christians want resurrected eternal Heavenly life as their first priority?

A few days ago I discussed why mainstream modern (mostly secular) people do not want the resurrected eternal Heavenly life that Jesus offered - especially in the Fourth ("John") Gospel.

But what applies to modern people also applies to Christians in the sense that eternal life features as such a low priority or interest for modern Christians, that it often gets left-out altogether!

(Whereas modern secular people don't want resurrection at all; modern Christians don't want resurrection all that much...)

I don't suppose any Christian would go so far as to deny resurrection after death; but it has been pushed a long way down the scale of importance (except, perhaps, for Mormons - at least in theory) - because it has been displaced by this-worldly concerns. 

Part of this relates to the word and concept of sin. If asked "what is Christianity?" most Christians will probably focus upon sin; and by sin they will mean (almost exclusively) moral transgressions. 

Therefore, the explanation of what Jesus Christ did for Men is focused upon how he negated the negation that is moral transgression. Behind this is typically an idea that moral transgressions will send us to hell by default - except that Jesus Christ has negated these through his work and The Church.  

Yet, if - like me - you regard the Fourth Gospel as the primary source; then it is evident that sin meant mostly death. When Jesus took away sin, he took away the necessity of death. And provided "everlasting" or "eternal" life. Jesus took away death by replacing it with resurrection into Heaven.   

However, in contrast, the actual everyday, and detailed theology and doctrines, of Christianity have apparently - for many, many centuries - concentrated upon moral behaviour in this mortal life. And, consequently, Christianity has neglected or relatively downplayed the purpose and endpoint of all this - which is resurrected eternal Heavenly life. 

For example, I recently attended a Christmas Carol concert at an evangelical church - in which many things were mentioned - Old Testament prophecies, the nativity story; virgin birth; angels, shepherds and wise men, Jesus as King, Jesus whose death saved us from sin etc. etc. - but never any explicit explanation that Christianity was directed-at and ultimately-about resurrected eternal Heavenly life.

Perhaps this was partly because such a focus does not "play well" with a modern secular audience; but I believe that it cuts much deeper than this - and that when a modern Christian tries to explain Christianity Made Simple, he does not recognize the promise of eternal life as the single key fact that absolutely must be put-across as the core and essence of the faith. 

There are, of course, also spiritual risks entailed by a strong and central emphasis on eternal life as the 'reward' of following Jesus. 

But there are always risks to any course - there is no "safe" way to be-a-Christian - certainly not in 2023 and in The West; and indeed we see all around us the appalling consequences of the Churches putting morality in this mortal life at the centre and as the main concern of Christianity. 

And expediency should not be the bottom-line: truth must be our ultimate guide. We each must decide for our-selves whether it is true that resurrected eternal life by following Jesus Christ really is the essence of Christianity; and that depends upon our assumptions as to where Christian truth lies, and how we as individuals may best get access to it, and know it once found. 


Mia said...

It's very trendy amongst Christians in the US to tell their children "Santa is not real." It frustrates me to no end because at the *very* least the historical person of St. Nicholas is real and has eternal resurrected heavenly life *if* you are a Christian. I started to ask a Santa-denying child from a Christian family about what happens when you die and got nowhere because he confidently replied "You're just gone." Whatever Christianity he was being raised with, even the existence of an immortal soul was a lower priority than...something else. His mother was present and totally unperturbed and said nothing about her son's practical atheism/materialism.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Mia - At some point, people really need to think-things-through seriously; instead of parroting.

Most people know that Father Christmas is real in some real-sense, and simply need to work-out what that reality actually means. Doing so could even be the breakthrough to deep thinking about the nature of reality (i.e. metaphysics).

Mia said...

Your Father Christmas posts are gems. It's funny because for me, figuring out Santa "wasn't real" immediate brought me to atheism at age 5. Of course that only happened because I had embraced the materialist philosophy actually held by my nominally Christian family. But looking back now, I see Father Christmas as one of the realest parts of a strange personal journey. And since I was an atheist when I began parenting, I can also observe a wonderful difference in my own children now that we acknowledge the realness and magic of Christmas. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Bruce!

Bruce Charlton said...

Merry Christmas Mia!

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I don't think it's possible for Father Christmas to be the same person as St. Nicholas. And I have no idea what to think of the Santa Claus persona.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks for the comment, and Merry Christmas SM.

Karl said...

A literary analogy is Dante. In so far as most people know and read him, it's the Inferno, with its ghoulish and macabre forms of torture and punishment. Purgatorio is rarely discussed, Paradiso never. I'm trying to remedy that myself this Christmas by reading through the last of the three, not having worked my way through it in years.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, Dr Charlton.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Karl - I suppose part of the blame must attach to those many people over the centuries who used fear of hell, rather than a desire for Heaven, as the mainstay of Christianity.