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Christians Wrong About Heaven, says Bishop
Interesting article below. I'm curious as to anyone else's thoughts on it.
From my read of the Bishop of Durham's comments, he appears to be saying
1) We do not become - or at least remain - disembodied spirits upon our deaths. We retain a corporeal existence throughout eternity
2) The popular conception of heaven as a bunch of clouds and harps and sitting about singing is seriously inaccurate
3) We don't actually "go to heaven" at all, insofar at least as heaven is a separate place for this earth: rather, heaven and earth are reunited at a certain point by Jesus in an act of "new creation."
4) Implications: maintenance of our current physical bodies is important. We don't just get to ditch 'em. Moreover, Earth itself needs to be maintained more carefully: it's not going to be ditched either.
I can go with the Bishop as far as points 1 and 2. This is not crazy radical stuff. I know, as most of us probably do, that the whole clouds, harps and halos concept isn't exactly dead on.
But as far as points 3 and 4? This is a short article / interview and open to misinterpretation, but it almost feels like the Bishop is suggesting it's our job to "bring heaven to earth" - to "usher in the kingdom" as some churches put it. That we don't get to start over and better be really careful with what we've got.
I thought Revelation made it pretty clear that there is a *new* heaven and a *new* earth.
In fact... this is Revelation 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
So, anyway, I have a little trouble following this bishop to what he seems to believe are the logical implications. But maybe I am missing something.
Like I said, I have no trouble admitting that the traditional "cartoon" stereotype of Heaven is inaccurate. What implications should a more accurate view of Heaven have?
Link: Anglican Bishop's Take on Heaven
Sunday, 5-3-09 9:23 AM
re: Christians Wrong About Heaven, says Bishop
Zach and I read the last two chapters of Revelation on Saturday, so it's interesting that this should come up.
I have long believed that there is a place where people go when they die that is, if they are members of the household of faith, in the presence of Jesus. I would think that this is where my mom is now. But as to "where" it actually is, or what her body looks like, I can't say for sure. I agree that we are not disembodied spirits. My beliefs are based on the following two passages, for example.
2 Corinthians 5
"1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down when we die and leave these bodies we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. 4 Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. 6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. "
and Philippians 1
"21 For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don't know which is better. 23 I'm torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me,"
It seems like the bishop is on board with fruitful service for Christ
Another thing that interests me is that Randy Alcorn has written a book entitled "Heaven" that seems to purport some similar ideas, so this is not just a catholic view. There are many evangelicals with a similar view.
When Jesus says, "I make all things new," I sometimes wonder what this means. In another place, Paul takes about us people who are now in Christ as "new creatures." Does this mean that we have nothing in common with the old or that we should turn away from everything that we once were marked by?
2 Corinthians 5 again.
"16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now! 17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 18 All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him."
Perhaps I can transfer the argument a little bit to the new heaven and new earth topic. When a person sees Jesus and accepts Jesus for who He really is, the "old life is gone and a new life has begun". This happens on a large scale when Jesus brings in the kingdom - the new heaven and new earth. It is not that I am no longer recognizable as Katy when I become a Christian. I may still have red hair and a boisterous laugh, but people may say of someone who has an extreme conversion experience that they hardly recognize them anymore.
Maybe this is like the new earth and the new heaven. They are so different that any relationship to the old can't be recognized. We know how ugly mankind can make things but become accustomed to it. This then becomes normal or even good to us after awhile. Not so with God. When He rebuilds, reshapes or recreates, it is marked by perfection. I don't think we can even recognize perfection because of sin. Our judgment is clouded by it at every level. We can recognize Jesus as the mark of perfection, but we don't have a full view of him either, most of the time.
Premises 3 and 4
We are instructed to maintain our physical bodies on some level, so that they don't become a hindrance in serving God, but rather are profitable for him. In other words. we as Christians are instructed to be faithful servants of our own bodies. They've been given to us to use for God's glory. Just a few examples.
Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? (Sacrifices, in the old testament, were always the first and best. I don't think it's a stretch to think that the same would be true after Christ's death. We should take care of our bodies and offer him what is good.)
1 Corinthians 6:13
You say, "Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food." This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them. But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.
But, at the same time, we know they're not perfect and we're going to get new ones (Romans 8:23). This is not an excuse for not taking care of them.
Can the same thing not be said of the earth? I guess if you make a clean break with Genesis and the whole old testament, you could say that the earth is not important, or as important. Certainly we shouldn't worship the earth anymore than we should worship people, but we should take care of both. But I wonder, if we really believed that God's earth displays God's attributes, would we not be a little more thoughtful of how we treat things here? It is clear that people have a stronger mark of God's etching. Human beings are made in the image of God. We should be very respectful of that. To a lesser degree, we should not have such a cavalier attitude about the earth,which displays God's workmanship, because it's eventually going to be recreated.
Jesus acknowledges the earth as God's footstool, for example.
And if you say, 'By the earth!' it is a sacred vow because the earth is his footstool. And don't swear, 'By Jerusalem!' for Jerusalem is the city of the great King.
"From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God."
I think I could agree with a lot of what the bishop says, Annette, with a few minor adjustments.
Monday, 5-4-09 3:14 PM
re: Christians Wrong About Heaven, says Bishop
Errrgh.... brain probably not working nearly well enough to make a coherent response here, but I feel compelled to try. :)
I appreciate your scriptural support for all those points.
I think, especially with it laid out like that, there's no argument that we're supposed to be good stewards of our bodies, not to mention Creation as a whole. Oh, and also that "New" has both a spiritual and physical sense, and it may not always be perfectly clear which is which - context is rather critical. ;) The Revelation 21 passage I cited above, though... I expect it's talking about physically new heaven and earth, if for no other reason than if you just read the dozen chapters before it you'll probably have noticed that This earth is getting beat up pretty badly with all the plagues and seals and judgments. It almost certainly requires replacement at that point. ;}
As is so often the case, though, I feel like I probably agree with the conclusions of this bishop for the wrong reasons. (OK, this is where my foggy brain is going to make this difficult...)
What I am trying to say is, I agree that we're supposed to be stewards of our bodies and the earth because of passages like the ones you quoted, Not because my conception of heaven suggests there may be eternal consequences for abusing the same. That is, I don't think there will be Physical eternal consequences for damage inflicted on body or earth. How could there be? Wouldn't that mean the handicapped would remain handicapped? (Spiritual consequences I don't so much doubt, of course.)
So I'm not saying his conclusions that we ought to - for instance - not bomb civilians in Iraq are wrong. I just don't see how they follow from the frequently overlooked fact that we retain a corporeal body after death. There are plenty of other reasons not to go around slaughtering the innocent or poisoning their drinking water!
Unless I am just reading this wrong. Maybe he really is just trying to push people away from the gnostic heresy of believing the physical to be all evil and irrelevant and the spiritual the only thing we need be truly concerned about, and point out that we have a responsibility for people's bodies, not just their souls. If so, I'm with him! :)
Monday, 5-4-09 8:54 PM
re: Christians Wrong About Heaven, says Bishop
OK, while my brain has never been anything but fuzzy, I will, nun the less, jump in here willy nilly.
There are enough passages of scripture to keep us all chewing on this until the time we experience it first hand but over time I have developed a personal theory on how it all works. If Im way off base you will have to let me know.
There is, as Jesus describes in his parables, a place of punishment and reward, or at least feasting in the Lords presence. (Lasarus and the rich man. Luke 16:19) This seems to be the place Jesus talks about when he says he goes to prepare a place for us in heaven John 14:2, and the place he says the thief will join him in this day in heaven Luke 23:43. It is also apparent that there will be a way to feel suffering as we do in the physical body.
I do agree with the bishop in that I dont think that this spiritual place is our final destination.
I believe the confusion comes because Jesus also talks about what things will be like when he comes again to rule over the earth. The earth will be new again and He says we will rule the nations with Him.
I am not Catholic and I cannot go with their waiting place of limbo. I do think however, that heaven is a place where we wait with spirit bodies for the time when Christ comes back to earth to finish sin for good. When that happens then the dead will rise up in body and all will be judged either by their dependence on the grace of God through counting on Jesus sacrifice, or on their own good works balanced against the bad.
When that happens we receive new bodies and since God has counted every hair on our heads I think we will look like us, but that the damage and handicaps of the past will be gone.
Since death and disease are the result of sin, it makes since to me that when Christ redeems the world, our bodies will be whole and free of the result of sin. So I dont believe handicaps and old injuries can remain. And after all we will run and not be weary.
We will indeed have work to do in that new world. I dont think anyone will describe it as boring.
Since we only have clues to go on we dont really know exactly what things will be like. But we do count on the one who does and because of that, I know it will be good. (and by good I mean over the top awesome!)
Thursday, 5-7-09 11:40 AM
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