POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan


Last night ABC news and Barbara Walters did a special report entitled "Heaven -- Where Is It? How Do We Get There?". The show was a a montage of interviews from people from various faith traditions. The line-up included Catholics, Jewish scholars, Moderate Muslims, a Muslim suicide bomber (and yes, they talked about the virgins), an African American pastor, Hollywood's beloved Dali Lama (with cameo props from Richard Gere), an Evangelical (actually a Charismatic), an atheist, Mitch Albom (sports analyst turned Heaven guru), and several new agy types who had been approached by the light in in near death situations. There were others interviewed as well, but the above list is representative. Overall, I was not disappointed in the show seeing as it was mostly what one would expect in our culture. What was said was deeply disappointing, but I was not diappointed as it was very predictable - I was even calling the way the show would go. Quite accurately most of the time, although it was a bit annoying to my wife hearing me say "this is what they will say next" and then being right. There was talk about heaven being a state of mind, a hopeful idea that helps people in the here and now, that good people go there, etc. etc. The Dali Lama taught us about reincarnation and how people increase their estate in successive lives and go on to a blissful state...and then on to Nirvana, the obliteration of personality into the oneness of all. He also told us that we can descend downward into the animal kingdom if we are not so nice...he even said there are animals who are living good lives on their way to being human again. There are good dogs and bad dogs you see (yes, he did use that as an illustration of Karma and Reincarnation). All of this earned him a kiss from Barbara Walters - we in the west sure love the 14th reincarnated Dali Lama. One of the more disappointing things about the show was that of the Christian witness. The Catholic guy represented his views well, but could have deepened the understanding of others. Heaven is the purpose for this life was the line of the bishop, but I longed to hear him talk more of the "Beatific vision" - that heaven is about a pure vision of God. The African American pastor did a great job talking about the hope of heaven for this life - a very prominent theme in Scripture and in the African American experience. Yet, he described heaven as an ethereal place rather than a real Kingdom, a place where Granda is, and not so much a place of the active, real, present rule of God. Perhaps most disappointing was the covering of the evangelical viewpoint. The few churches mentioned were Lakewood Church (28K folks in a basketball arena in Houston), Saddleback and Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Most of the time was spent with Haggard, the president of the National Assoc of Evangelicals and footage from the charismatic New Life Church. Haggard described an evangelical somewhat accurately (belief in Jesus, the Bible and the new birth) in words familiar to evangelicals, but did not communicate/translate well those terms for Ms Walters or a broader audience. His response that one must be "born-again" to go to Heaven is not wrong per say, but he did not explain anything about our view of sin, salvation, heaven as the Kingdom of Christ, and very little about Jesus being the focus and treasure of the life to come. Walters of course asked if you have to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven and Haggard's response was that faith in Christ is the only sure way. Others would have to work it out on their own (what is meant by that, I'm not sure as no clarification was given). He was more forthright in saying that Hell is a reality for those without Christ to which Walters showed a predictable skepticism (Jews, Hidus, and Muslims don't believe that). All of this was woefully out of context - maybe due to Haggard's own inadequate explanation, maybe something was lost on the editing floor. I found myself wanting another voice for the "evangelical" position. I thought "How about Randy Alcorn?" who just wrote a book on the topic. What about John Piper, who has studied deeply at the wells of Jonathan Edwards, one of America's finest theological minds on Heaven (See his Heaven is a world of Love). Or even a Christian apologist like JP Moreland, William Lane Craig, or Lee Strobel would have been a much better choice in my mind. Overall, here is what I wanted to say about the matter:
Barbara, what we believe about Heaven is this. First, it is not a place that is an end to itself, it is the restoration of all things to God, his established rule and reign on a renewed earth forever. Jesus Christ will be Heaven's ruler, the government of Heaven will be by a perfect, loving, king who is God in flesh. He himself will be heaven's treasure, not the streets of gold, not the lack of disease, not the lack of tears. Our tears are dried because he has defeated evil and death and disease. He has brought about an eternal age of joy and hope and peace for his people. In this life we all have a sense of longing in our hearts, a desire for a world much different than this one. We realize that there is something woefully wrong, something fractured and incomplete about this life, even our own selves. Jesus tells us that this world is under a curse by God due to our sin. We are all alienated from God and one another due to our own evil doing. Jesus tells us that it is the heart of people that is the source of pain, brokenness, and evil in the world. This heart needs to be forgiven and changed. Human beings need reconciliation to a loving God against whom they have sinned and rebelled. All of us who sin (all of us) and do evil will answer to a just and good God - this is a dreadful reality and truth. There will be no bribes, payoffs, hot shot lawyers to mediate between sinners and a just God...yet God in his grace and mercy sent Jesus to die a bloody, brutal death on the cross - to be crushed, so that we would not face the just judgment of God for our own evil. His displeasure against our sin was poured upon Jesus so that we could be forgiven and free for relationship with God. All who believe and trust this Jesus - believing that he has died for them, those who turn from their sin to him in a trusting relationship are reconciled to God in this life. We then follows this Jesus in his purposes on earth (service to the poor, preaching of the good news of his Kingdom, preaching his work on our behalf, reconciliation to one another and God, working for justice in this age) until he brings about the eternal Kingdom of Heaven in the last days. This Kingdom has come with Christ, continues through his sovereign rule of all things, and in his people on the earth. This Kingdom will be consummated at the end of time with his complete renewal of all things. Barbara, this Jesus will rescue people from every tribe, tongue and language, and religious background on the earth. I could tell you stories of my friends who are converted high caste Brahman Hindus. Or Muslims who have come to Jesus under great threat to job, social status, and execution in lands where there is no religious freedom. I could tell you of thousands of Chinese coming to this Jesus every day, of Messianic Jewish congreations deeply in love with Messiah, and I can tell you my own story - one of a cocky physics student who did not believe in Jesus - who was saved on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill in 1992. His purpose for this life is to redeem and change people, from enemies of God to forgiven sinners. Sinners who treasure is Christ and whose treasure in eternity will be the same Jesus - only clearly seen and whose benevolent rule will be absolute and wonderful.
Oh, what a glorious place Heaven will be - a place where we see Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13), a place where tears are gone (Revelation 21), where we will worship him together - black, white, asian, semitic, arab, all peoples (Revelation 5), and where our deepest longest and greatest thirst are satisfied (Revelation 22:17). Your Kingdom Come...Yes, Come Lord Jesus. ....