Some last thoughts on our final destination

A while ago, I posted some reflections here.  This was my attempt to square our common understanding with the nature of heaven with what I saw in the biblical account.  There were some amazing, and some frustrating responses to this post.  If you care for the gory details, I shared them in this post.

My good friend and pastor, Marty, just shared some information that I find fascinating.  It’s an interview with a well-known theologion who’s asking some of the same questions I was.  For a much more coherent and sophisticated execution of what I was trying to explore, check this interview out.

As a result of the insights, conversations, and over-all iron-sharpening-iron that I’ve had the privilige to share in, these are a few things I’d like to add or emphasize…

#1) God is ridiculously over the top in love with us and plans only the best for us.  What the afterlife is, whenever it occurs, we will be with Him and it will be amazing.  Working out some of the details are at best irrelevant and at worst divisive and distracting.

#2) The strongest biblical case that can be made for the traditional view is based on the fact that Jesus says that we will be with him; he also says that he will be with the father; and the bible clearly states that God is in heaven.  In my mind, this makes it a medium-sized jump to assume that all this will occur in heaven.

#3) It’s awesome to be supported by friends who know your heart.

#4) We all should be careful in assuming motivations in those we don’t know.  It’s hurtful and divisive.

#5) Sometimes, in debates, it’s not really about the issues at all.  People draw comfort from tradition and this is not a bad thing.  When I’m questioning tradition I should weigh this discomfort with the importance of seeking truth.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Some last thoughts on our final destination”

  1. hey jeff,
    nice post. i just wrote a response that got lost in space because of my carelessness. what waste of an hour!!!! if by some unbelievable stroke of Providence you find it floating around on your end, i hope you like it.

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  2. interesting, that interview with the bishop… I’m not sure about motivating conservation with the new creation though, since pollution could presumably be miracled away, and we could conserve anyway, as a consequence of our attitude to creation… But it was nice to read (eventually, after words that seemed to a contrary effect) that we do go to Heaven when we die (?)

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  3. Thanks, enigman. And welcome.

    I think it’s fair to say that pollution could presumably be miracled away… but I think there is a subtle yet profound shift that occurs when we start to think that eternity will be spent in a place that Earth is one of the ingredients for.
    One of those shifts is that we lose our disdain for the physical. The second is that we regain an appreciation for God’s original pronouncement, that the Earth was “good.”
    If I pull cheap play-doh out of a canister, I’m likely to have not very much respect for it. It’s cheap, easy, not very important.
    If I’m given the oppurtunity to build a little something with clay that will go on to be reformed by the world’s most brilliant sculptor, I’ll be much more reverent with that clay. I might know that anything I do to the clay could be fixed, but this won’t change my background respect for the clay itself.
    I think there’s also important questions in all this about how the Kingdom will come about. If you hold the position that the kingdom will come through Jesus actions in us, you recognize that recycling is in fact a step toward the coming of the kingdom itself. (This issue wasn’t adressed by Wright in that article, but there is some really amazing stuff out there on this topic; Rick Mckinley’s “This Beautiful Mess” and Shain Clairborne’s book are great places to start. Both McKinley and Clairborne have large internet presences. I can’t reccomend them enough.)
    As for whether or not we go to heaven… Here’s how I see what Wright was saying, which I agree with.
    1) There is this ethereal, nonphysical realm called Heaven. It existed since the beginning of time. It is where God the father dwells. It is distant and unchanging and perfect.
    2) Once there was all sorts of cross over between Earth and Heaven. This was the time before the fall.
    3) The fall of mankind created a seperation between Heaven and Earth. Earth got a lot worse for this seperation. Heaven continues to be perfect.
    4) Jesus came to put a connection to heaven in us. We can never travel there. Humans never could. But through Jesus we are connected to this reality.
    5) Jesus will return to completely eradicat the wall between Heaven and Earth. This new place will not be Heaven, and it will not be Earth. It will be something wholly new. Perfected through Heaven’s influence. Physical through “Earth’s” influence.
    (Earth, in some sense, referring to our entire physical reality.)

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