Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Making heaven wait? take two
Jonal entry 907 | Wednesday, August 24, 2005
I've been asked to say more about Wednesday's topic, "Making heaven wait?" so today I'll reply to several of the specific points raised.
The first part of this question reminds me of a movie I saw at the Capitol Theater in my childhood, "Stars in my Crown," in which Joel Grey played a gun-totin' small-town parson. It came to mind because I can't remember ever hearing a sermon on how great heaven is (or will be), but that movie, or at least the hymn that it borrowed its title from, dealt with that topic. I've never preached or taught Bible studies about how great heaven will be. I suppose there are ministries in which this is a high priority, but my own and those I have always admired and emulated are much more oriented to the question that is the title of Francis Schaeffer's magnum opus, How Then Shall We Live? (emphasis added).
To the second clause in the sentence, I have two thoughts. First, I don't think it's true that all of us are fighting our hardest to extend life. A case can be made logically, I think, for just the opposite proposition. Why are we overweight, not working out as much as we should, some of us even smoking and drinking excessively if holding onto life is our highest value? We all know these things are killers, yet they are very widespread in our culture. Many have observed that we are a culture fixated on death, as though we have a suicidal obsession. Philosophically, this is often explained in terms of nihilism, meaning that the sense we have of death is so strong that we give up living and embrace the opposite. Christians are the one set of our population that professes (at least) that this death-obsession is displeasing to God and therefore sinful, so we trybut often only by great effortto keep our minds on life rather than death.
And, a more down-to-earth explanation: many people take their heart, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other medicines because their doctors have prescribed them and, often, little more.
And my second approach to the second clausean attempt to make sense of our heroic efforts to continue life despite its painis also philosophical, or "highly theoretical." We hold on to life to whatever extent we do because we are carnal (fleshly, that is) and temporal (time-oriented) beings. We know, if we believe the Bible, that after death we will be raised spiritual beings (1 Corinthians 15) who have no use for or place in time, and we live in the hope of that. And in Orthodoxy and some other segments of the Christian world, the emphasis is on becoming as "spiritual" as it is possible to become while we're still living carnal beings. But although the holiest among us may transcend some aspects of this fleshly pale (being conduits of miracles, for example), none of us have ever been spiritual beings belonging to the ephemeral realm (heaven) of angels and those who require no food or fleshly needs and desires. We'd rather go to that realm when our time comes than to cease to exist or go to the place of torment where the fire is not quenched, but we're in no hurry because we can't begin to imagine what it's going to be like to be spiritual beings. We can read C. S. Lewis whose space trilogy gives what I consider the best imaginings of it, but we can't get much closer. What Orthodoxy says about that realm is that we go to the presence of God and without sharing His essense we will share His energies, as beings of pure energy.
And as suggested in citing Francis Schaeffer's How Then Shall We Live? I'll conclude by taking up one more thought the correspondent raised: "And to say that all Christians are pro-life in this context is nothing but a convenient weapon to use against the outspoken, female, 'Liberal'...of the list.....Every human being who believes in the sanctity of human life should fight for and do what is necessary to preserve the lives of the defenseless unborn." I never speak of "what Christians believe" as a statistical proposition; I wouldn't use that phrase as something that equates or pertains to "what all Christians believe." What Christians believe (to me) is what the Bible teaches and the church has taught from the beginning, or at least through the seven ecumenical councils, not what some commentator or radio personality or feminist theologian is teaching today or what a Gallup poll "finds" Christians believe. And when I said "Christians are prolife" I wasn't thinking about abortion, as vital as that issue is, but I was referring to the fact that Chistianitythe faith of the resurrection, the religion of the victory over deathis always in every sense pro-life, all about the teaming creation of God's handiwork that fills the world and lives to glorify Him.
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