The problem with heaven

The conventional Protestant/Evangelical view of Heaven is a place of eternal joy and happiness and love for everyone and everything and especially God. Whether you actually spend all day, every day praising God (or, indeed, whether time periods such as days exist or are even relevant) are potential points of contention, but the basic ideas of joy and love and all that are pretty much common to all the pictures of heaven I’ve ever been presented with.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the thing is, I’m not so sure if I like that idea.

No, hold on a moment. Stick with me, here: think about the song that has affected you most – the song that has made you feel most strongly, the most vital, the most human even. I’m willing to bet that it’s not a happy song, or at the very least that it’s not a song that was written or speaks of a happy, joyous time. But I’m also willing to bet that when you describe that song you use words like “beauty” and “passion” and “feeling”, right? My point is: out of the sorrow and the suffering and the pain can come beauty and glory and wonder and this is not a bad thing.

I’m not saying that it’s not possible to produce great art or works of great emotion without suffering – although a great many artists over human history have been deeply tortured souls – but the thing is that works produced and the feelings experienced in times of suffering are a hugely important part of what it means to be human. Suffering and loss are part of who we are and act as an inpsiration towards the creation of much beauty. And if heaven is supposed to be a place where suffering and loss no longer exist, then we lose a major part of what it means to be human – is this what God would intend for us?

My idea of heaven, then, is not a dreamy-white cloudy place of everlasting joy and exuberant praise; it is a place where I can be fully human, be myself fully – in all the experiences and feelings and emotion that entails – but also, through the work of Christ and the grace of God, I can experience a relationship with my Creator to the full as well in a way that I have only glimpsed a tiny part of in my life today.

6 Responses to “The problem with heaven”

  1. Cez says:

    To expand slightly more on that, I think it’s this apparent requirement for dualism that have lead some (eg: William Blake, ifI’ve read him correctly; especially the proverbs) to think that, you know, Christians have got the wrong end of the stick.

    Extrapolating, very slightly, it might also be related to the perception of christians as all being terribly happy clappy.

  2. Trav says:

    That is my main problem with heaven. Most people have trouble with large numbers, even fewer people can grasp the implications of an eternity doing /anything/. It’s going to get pretty boring.

    >every day praising God
    Also, if I had the power to create a universe, I doubt I’d be so egotistical as to require the constant praise of some tiny beings I’d created on a whim.

    I just don’t get the concept of heaven and why it’s a good idea.

  3. Richard McIntosh says:

    Dear Trav, Chris.

    Having only been to heaven once. No obviously I haven’t but here are some points that I would tentatively want to make.

    a) Christian’s don’t believe in heaven. What I mean by that is that Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. Heaven is just tempory. The place where you sorfware gets downloaded to till you new hardware is ready. Once the body is resurrected, the earth also will be resurrected . Thus, the christian belief is that the post-ressurection life is in some ways similar to this one. There might even be computer programmers.

    b) Trav, I think that you have miss understood what Christian’s mean by praise. If God wants the best for human beings and he is the supreme good. Should he not desire that people seek after the best good-himself. Is it egotistical to desire the best for others? I could go on about the Trintiy and how each person desires the praise of the other person but that would just get complex.

    c) I often think about the fact that the post resurrected Christ had scars. This leads me to think that the sorrow of this world. The beauty of it will be changed into something good.

  4. Kyle says:

    Ooh, you linked me. That is awesome. I feel so affirmed!

    But more on-topic, I like Richard’s comment on the matter, and would like to add that I’ve found some helpful thoughts about the restored creation in which we live lives of praise (which would be different from ‘praising all the time’ being one in which all the pain and suffering is in some way integrated into redemption in such a way that it’s not ‘disappeared,’ but rather doesn’t matter in the same way. We wouldn’t lose the things that make us us, but rather be freed from the destructive power.

  5. pigwotflies says:

    What about Revelation 21? No more death, no more crying, no more pain. I think you’re right about heaven being fully human and knowing God fully. Body resurrection is a real thing, a physical thing not an airy-fairy floaty thing. But the bad stuff won’t be there. Yes, being human right now means suffering, but then it won’t. Perhaps resurrection bodies will be a new way of being human.