Monday, April 29, 2013

Heaven? Sounds like a job from Hell!

Is Heaven like depicted in stories, TV, and cartoons? D. McF. asks, Billy Graham answers:

We will have work to do in heaven
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Will we just float around on a cloud when we get to heaven, and be kind of like ghosts or something? — D.M.

DEAR D.M.: No, that image you see in cartoons of someone floating around on a cloud and strumming a harp simply isn’t true. Nor is it true that we’ll be purely spiritual creatures in heaven with no physical substance, somewhat like ghosts.

The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions about heaven and what it will be like, but it does tell us two important truths (among others). First, it tells us that we will be given new bodies in heaven — bodies that will be similar to our bodies right now, but without the limitations and diseases that currently plague us. In fact, the Bible says our new bodies will be like the resurrected body of Jesus. We can barely imagine this — but it’s true! (1 Corinthians 15:49)

Second, the Bible tells us that we’ll have work to do in heaven because we’ll be serving God and doing his will. Unlike here, however, we won’t become weary, nor will we become ill or injured. We won’t be bored in heaven! (Revelations 22:3)

The real question, however, is this: Are you certain that you will be going there? Sin cuts us off from God, - both now and in eternity. But Christ died to take away our sins. Make sure of your salvation by putting your faith and trust in Christ and committing your life to him without delay.
One thing that Graham gets correct is that the Biblical Heaven is not the usual image of sitting on a
fluffy cloud playing a harp and just enjoying an eternal vacation. It doesn't give anything close to a detailed description of Heaven, but what the Bible says about Heaven is that it will consist of us eternally worshiping God. Yeah, that sounds like loads of fun...

But rather than stopping with 'this is what the Bible says about Heaven', he does one of the things he does best... Jump to conclusions! What will we look like in Heaven? We'll have all new bodies and be free of disease. He then exclaims that 'it's true!'. Whoa now Billy, hold on to your horses. How did you happen to determine so certainly the nature of life in Heaven, when the very existence of Heaven has never been proven? Oh that's right... the Bible. The very same book that proposes the existence of Heaven.

Does anyone else see the problem of using the source of the unfounded claim to also act as further 'evidence' of that claim. I might as well cite the Norse mythology in regards to the description and existence of Valhalla and pat myself on the back for proving this theology true 'beyond question'. Any rational person (and even many irrational people) would agree that I would do no such thing in that hypothetical example. You can not prove a claim, by only citing that claim to back up your claim. Yet that's exactly what Graham (and many believers) do every single day. If they are intellectually honest, they have to either accept that this argument proves the Norse theology, or that it doesn't prove Christianity (as it is so often claimed that it does).

In the version of the story that ran in my paper, Graham opines that the real question is if you are certain that you will be going to heaven. As I've covered in an earlier blog, there is no certainty as heaven is based on nothing more than a pile of assumptions. The notion of sin cutting one off from God is an absurd notion for a god that's supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent. If he is those things, it's impossible to 'cut ourselves off from him'. Also consider the absurdity that all are damned because of so called 'Original Sin'.

Trouble is that we already know that a literal interpretation of Genesis simply doesn't wash. Couple that facts of evolution with that, and the Christian is faced with a very real problem. No Adam and Eve means no Original Sin. No Original Sin, means that the supposed 'sacrifice' of Jesus was largely in vain. Sure, that would still leave individual 'sins' on the table, but it kills the notion that all are automatically damned.

I actually think there is a more interesting question to be asked. Assuming that there is a Heaven, and it is as advertised, do you want to go there? I've already talked prior about why Heaven is a folly as claimed, but would you still want to go there? Personally, I'd have to answer with a resounding no. If Heaven is as advertised, I'm not interested. I'd welcome the non-existence that faces me long before I'd wish for Biblical Heaven (or even non-Biblical versions).

Oh, but then you'll be in Hell, isn't Heaven better? I'll take my chances (assuming the Heaven/Hell proposal were true). Who's to say what Hell is really like if it actually exists. We've only ever heard it described from the oppositions point-of-view after-all. Would you trust a Ford dealers review of a Chevy (or vice versa) as an unquestionable and unbiased source? So why should we just assume that Satan's 'place' is as God describes? It could just as well be a smear campaign as the actual truth. Of course I don't believe in the Devil either. But one thing seems to be certain... If there is a Hell, that's where all the fun people are. Biblical Heaven sounds more like Hell to me.

There is also another issue with the threats of Hell that try and scare you into the eternal boredom of Heaven. Of course there's the fire and burning. But that would require that Hell be an actually physical place. Fire burns actual matter, and our physical nerve endings are what allow us to feel pain. So if Hell isn't physical, there's nothing to worry about. But there's problems even if it is physical. Supposedly you will be tortured and burned until there's nothing left. Then you will be 'restored', only for it to start over, on and on for eternity. This would only be a temporary torment though.

You must consider how tolerance builds over time. When you visit a place that is much hotter than where you reside, the difference feels extreme. But the longer you stay there the more tolerance builds. After a while, the temperature feels normal to you. Say that you moved to Florida and got used to the weather there. Then you visit your old home after years, and find that the 50°F highs now feel terribly cold to you. Likewise, the initial torture you endure would be horrible. But it would eventually become the new norm... same shit, different day. It would become expected, you'd know that you will just be 'restored' once it's 'over', but you would one day get used to it. It's a outrageous thought at first, but over the space in eternity, it becomes a very plausible outcome.

All that said, I don't think there is a Heaven or a Hell, so I don't care what either would actually be like. So don't worry yourself about learning to play the harp, or making plans for eternity. There's no afterlife to worry about. If there is, I'll save you a seat in Valhalla, but I don't think any of us have any need to worry. Lets focus on enjoying this life, rather than planning for another that probably doesn't even exist.

-Brain Hulk

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  1. There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the
    Christian hope of "Heaven" ridiculous by saying they do not want "to spend eternity playing harps." The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.
    -CS Lewis Mere Christianity

    I suppose if Heaven is an Eternity of worshiping God face to face only the people who enjoy that sort of thing on earth would like Heaven. Which is rotten luck for those who don't because I doubt Hell would be a much more appealing option for Eternity

    1. I suppose that makes the nonexistence of both places pretty handy then.

      I have to admit that it's rather ironic seeing CS Lewis talking about 'books for grown-ups', when he spoon fed children the very same illogical beliefs via Narnia.