What if Glory Were Ordinary?

The local reading group here just completed Peter De Vries’ The Blood of the Lamb. As a product of Dutch-American Reformed culture, De Vries’ reflections on growing up among the elect on Chicago’s south side is well worth the time. His reflections on the death of a child are poignant and compete with an acerbic wit.

De Vries’ character, Don Wanderhope’s grief for his cancer-stricken daughter produced ruminations (from the novel) about the value of this world that may put the world to come in a light I had formerly not considered. After his daughter returns home from cancer treatments, he reflects on the joys that comprise the “happiest days” of life:

The greatest experience open to man then is the recovery of the commonplace. Coffee in the morning and whiskeys in the evening again without fear. Books to read without that shadow falling across the page. Carol [the daughter] culred up with one in her chair and I in mine. And the bliss of finishing off an evening with a game of rummy and a mug of cocoa together. And how good again to sail into Tony’s midtown bar, with its sparkling glasses, hitherto scarely noticed, ready to tilt us into evening. . . (166)

Reading that led me to think that maybe the new heavens and new earth will be exactly like this one (minus the sex). We go about our normal creaturely activities but will not be spooked by death, sickness, famine, war, or sin. There could be a lot worse ways to enjoy eternity. (Or maybe I am safely on the other side of middle-age.)

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55 thoughts on “What if Glory Were Ordinary?

  1. Wow.

    Powerful stuff.

    That’s a great quote to share with us. Anyone who has been through personal pain, or experienced a time of trial with loved ones, can totally relate to

    The greatest experience open to man then is the recovery of the commonplace.

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  2. From C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle

    Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among the mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the glass there may have been a looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.
    It was the unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:
    “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia so much is because it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!”
    Ch. 15 : Further Up and Further In

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  3. His first night in the New World, Hans Bethe walked all over New York.

    A chemist, Kurt Mendelssohn, vividly recalled the morning after his escape: “When I woke up the sun was shining in my face. I had slept deeply, soundly, and long-for the first time in many weeks. [The previous night] I had arrived in London and gone to bed without fear that at 3 a.m. a car with a couple of S.A. men would draw up and take me away.”

    Before it is science and a career, before it is livelihood, before even it is family or love, freedom is sound sleep and safety to notice the play of morning sun.

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

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  4. Psalm 63:2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.

    Forgiveness never looks glorious to the eyes, only to those who have given and received it.

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  5. “ready to tilt us into evening. . . ”

    Now that’s writing.

    JAS, Right on. That line stood out to me as well.

    Reminiscent of Updike, the great Protestant Writer.

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  6. DG, what would TKNY make of these musings? Would it be altogether too ungrand for his taste? Would anyone be eternally in Iowa?

    Back to my earlier suggestion — could the NH/NE involve you and John Piper batching it platonically in a NYC apartment?

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  7. Zrim, I know you’re probably not interested in hearing from sh(a)ne (a)nderson, but I think we spend this side of eternity coming to see it will be no ‘snag’ at all… the two shall become one, this mystery is great (Eph 5:32)

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  8. CW: Just watch out for Jase when he tilts too far and falls. Safety is being somewhere else in that case.

    It’s the only world-shaking I’ll ever manage.

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  9. But Darryl, reading fiction is a waste of time.

    Sincerely,

    Most of the annoying commenters from the last two years.

    I want to read De Vries. His early stuff is quite scarce.

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  10. (Sh)a(ne) a(nderson), what I mean by “snag” is that if the new heavens and new earth will be exactly like this one and we go about our normal creaturely activities un-spooked by sin (so far so good), why does the activity called sex arbitrarily go poof? Overpopulation seems unsatisfactory–he who created ex nihilo can surely provide ample space in redemption (just like he can resurrect cremated bodies). Maybe it’s too Freudian (worse, Bayly-esque), but I’m not sure poofed sex is such a great deal, even with everything else going swimmingly.

    All of which brings me to Paul’s point that no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. No sex? This better be good then, really good.

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  11. Put another way, if the new heavens and new earth will be exactly like this one and we go about our normal creaturely activities un-spooked by sin, then sex has to be a part of the plan–otherwise no sex sounds at best arbitrary and at worst Gnostic. If not, then the whole scenario of creation re-gained (minus sex) has to be dumped for re-creation gained (no sex, no sun, no English).

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  12. here is the full quote above, regarding the feeling of freedom from the simple pleasue of seeing the rising sun, starting with Princeton, Einstein reported to his friend Elizabeth, Queen of Belgium. Darryl, that’s what came to mind when I read that sentence about the commonplace, not sure why, but there it is.

    peace.

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  13. the plot thickens on bart (it was his brother!!):

    Vets were baffled by Bart’s mysterious survival – but Hutson believes his revival may be the doing of his brother and playmate.

    Speaking to local news station Fox13 about the strange happening, he suggested that Bart’s friend may have gone looking for him and clawed him out of his resting place.

    He said: ‘We have two cats and they play together all the time and they roam around with each other.

    ‘He might have went looking for his brother and dug him up – but I have no idea’.

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  14. The Blood of the Lamb, in my opinion, is one of the top ten novels ever written in America.

    Death is a very normal and ordinary enemy in this age. That’s why it’s so important that we NOT take the “new” out of the age to come, and NOT settle for a reformation of non-apocalyptic continuity. In this age, death and sex go together. After resurrection day, when Jesus appears back on earth, there will be no more death—not until then will there be glory.

    though our self you can see is wasting away, our self you cannot see is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us lasting weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are SEEN but to the things that are UNSEEN. For the things that are seen are secular (of this age), but the things that are unseen are lasting (of the age that lasts)

    Hebrews 9: 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and AFTER THAT COMES JUDGMENT, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, WILL APPEAR a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

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  15. A theology of the cross not only rules out, but also curses all human worth, will, and working that would accomplish or account for the salvation of sinners, in whole or in part.

    Luther’s Works, vol. 31, , pp. 39-70. Heidelberg Disputation Thesis 13: “Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.”

    Thesis 16 : “The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him ADDS SIN TO SIN so that he becomes doubly guilty.”

    Every one who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). How is it possible that a slave of the devil and a captive of the sin he serves can do anything else but sin? How can he do a work of light who is in darkness? How can he do the work of a wise man who is a fool? How can he do the work of a healthy person who is ill? … Therefore all things which he does are works of the devil, works of sin, works of darkness, works of folly…. Everything that does not proceed from faith is a mortal and damnable sin

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  16. from the Review of Lila in First Things:

    Robinson finds a way to sacralize suffering without glorifying it, and to move past it without ignoring it. Citing Calvin, perhaps with his own decades of widowhood in mind, Ames tells Lila that the purpose of adversity may be to allow us “to really recognize grace when it comes.” Realizing what this might leave God culpable for, he adds quickly, “I don’t know quite what to think about that.” Robinson, too, is wise enough to acknowledge that not all suffering leads to grace

    “If she ever took to praying,” we learn of Lila, “she would call down calm on every one of them, on the worst and the bitterest ones first of all.”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/02/honor-thy-child

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  17. On what Scriptural basis can we think that the next life would be largely similar to this one?

    Since marriage between humans is for this life only (and so the remarried widower above needn’t worry; Christ already discussed the matter of to which of her multiple earthly husbands would a woman be married in heaven; it’s not an issue, we don’t marry in heaven), and the Church constitutes the Bride of Christ in a mystical fashion (not a physical joining with Christ at the coming of His Kingdom in fullness, but being with Him), sex almost certainly will not be a part of the next life.

    Yet surely other things we enjoy now will also be absent; various little pleasures we can enjoy in this world.

    Take sport hunting, for instance. Many people enjoy sport hunting, whether for the thrill of the chase, or the pleasure of the eating of the game bagged, the conquering of nature, and/or whatever else (e.g. the fun of taxidermy of the caught, dead animal, and subsequent mounting of the body or head on the wall), as others have for generations (ever since hunting ceased to be something necessary to provide for one’s family, in the wilderness, it then became a leisure activity).

    But, we know that before the Fall, there was no blood shed, animal or human; Adam and Eve didn’t even eat meat.

    So, why should we assume that hunting would continue? Wouldn’t the New Heaven, on the renewed Earth, be a return to pre-Fall conditions? In that case, not only wouldn’t we sport hunt or fish, but we wouldn’t eat meat or wear leather, either!

    What about our favourite pets? Animals are neither saved nor damned, not possessing souls; presumably, they simply cease to exist upon their deaths. So, we likely won’t have animal companions to throw a ball for, or to sit with and pet, etc.

    Maybe there won’t be any animals around, either for pets, or meat or leather, etc. since we wouldn’t have any need of them.

    When we have perfected post-resurrection bodies, would women still feel a need to put on make-up, despite how much they enjoy doing so here on earth now, and how much men appreciate a little of it? Would we need to wear anti-perspirant, or deodorant; would we sweat, or would our sweat smell unpleasant, in an unfallen, renewed earth?

    Would we even need to refuel our post-resurrection bodies with food at all, or eliminate wastes as we do here and now?

    I have only thought of these examples right now, on the fly (these aren’t things I bother thinking about otherwise), for one reason.

    And that is, this: the simple fact is, we have no idea what the next life will be like. There isn’t anything all that specific in Scripture, in terms of details, about what the next life will be like; all we know is that we believers will all be together with each other and the Lord. Whether we’ll get to enjoy whisky or curling up with books beside fireplaces, or whatever, we have no idea. Nobody knows. Why waste time and energy conjecturing about the matter? It’s as pointless as wondering whether or not there is extraterrestrial life (unless and until, if there is, we find it or are found by it); in fact, probably even more so, since we’ll never know until after Judgment Day (whereas, if there are extraterrestrials, we could possibly encounter them one day, here in this life).

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  18. Has an “all of life” ring to it, eh? Seems like it would make the ordinary glorious. Does make for a “worldly” otherworld though. Darryl, you’re oh so close to being a neo-Calvinist.

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  19. Wouldn’t the New Heaven, on the renewed Earth, be a return to pre-Fall conditions?

    Will, that’s the neo-Calvinist view, i.e. creation re-gained. The 2k around here would theoretically say it’s re-creation gained, which is what would seem to make the notion that eternity is a glorified present (minus the sex, quizzically) suspect.

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  20. creation re-gained or re-creation gained ?

    and we know that you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, sown a natural perishable body in dishonor and weakness…raised an imperishable spiritual body, in glory and power

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  21. Darryl, thanks for this.

    Erik, it really brings out the immaturity of the Bayly’s thoughts.

    Zrim, well, how exactly does this sex thing play out? Does it go tantric? Is it still funny, at least some of the time? I’d like to sign off on the idea.

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  22. That there will be a new creation is indisputable (Rev. 21:1-5). But will there be some continuity with the old older? What are we to make of Rom. 8:19-23 where Paul states that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (v.21)? This seems to fit well with Rev. 22:1-5, where interestingly enough, elements echoing the older order of original creation (river of the water of life, tree of life) are introduced along with the removal of the curse. It seems that all good things are renewed rather than a clean slate approach. We will still be ourselves (from the old order) in some sense at the resurrection and new creation. Our various relations will be perfected and fitted for a new but not entirely different kind of existence. It is interesting that Rev. 21:2 describes the new Jerusalem as “coming down out of heaven” as God sets his dwelling place finally and firmly in our midst with no more threat of a serpent, death or anything accursed intruding. We will have coffee in the morning “without fear”. If Adam would’ve been confirmed in his pre-fall state at some point, would not he and his posterity have done very human and earthy things?

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  23. I don’t follow, zrim; how would ‘re-creation being gained’ differ from ‘creation being regained’?

    If the world is re-created, it would surely be as if the world was created from scratch again, and be a return to initial conditions, presumably.

    In any case, at the very least, having resurrection bodies, and living in a renewed heaven on earth, would surely mean much would be different. But more to the point, we haven’t been given many details of what heaven would be like, and doubtless we can’t really imagine very accurately; what profit is there in speculation? It’s surely pointless, and a waste of time and energy.

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  24. Will, per Van Drunen the idea is that “Redemption does not consist in restoring people to fulfill Adam’s original task, but consists in the Lord Jesus Christ himself fulfilling Adam’s original task once and for all, on our behalf. Thus redemption is not ‘creation regained’ but ‘re-creation gained.'” In fact, the pre-fall condition wasn’t intended to be exhaustive. The intention of his probation was for Adam to graduate to even greater things. He sinned and caused a delay. The second Adam picks the ball back up and finishes the work. We’re waiting to inherit the greater things to come, not working to get back to the garden.

    Agreed that speculation is futile. My only point has been that if it’s this life glorified then why no sex? The no sex (and no sun, new names) thing seems to underscore how much greater or unlike the current order it will be, whatever it looks like.

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  25. I love these sort of discussion with my kids (sans the “will there be sex in heaven” part). When I was little I used to worry we’d all be stuck at one age. I hoped we could go through the life stages over and over again, since I supposed babyhood, childhood, young adulthood, middle age, old age, all had good qualities, and why would I want to be stuck forever in one?

    My kids seem to worry most the (good) things they love in this life will not be in heaven/new earth (cheese, dogs, LEGOs, books and stories, the seasons, campfires, etc.)

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  26. Take sport hunting

    When the revival evangelist came to chapel at the fundamentalist Bible college I attended, the two things he publicly (and, at seemingly at the time) scandalously rued would not be in heaven were “turkey huntin’ and makin’ love.”

    Good times.

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  27. I meant “good times” in reference to the exposure to Bible college chapel speakers. Never been turkey hunting.

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  28. Darryl, no contest with you on that. But that’s what the “fall” part of the neo-Calvinist “creation, fall, redemption, renewal” is about. No end to the fallenness until the end. But there’s an already of the new age that we in the church experience by the Spirit and that we bring to the world (salt and light).

    Zrim, I realize that Wolters’ book is called Creation Regained but if you read it carefully (and ask him), he embraces your (our) position that had Adam succeeded there was more and better to come. And that’s what we get in the eschaton because of Christ’s work. So, yes. It’s not In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. It’s not that we go back and re-live Adam and Eve’s probation. We live out God intentions for Creation in the fully won (through Christ) eschaton. The ordinary (including culture-making) without sin–extraordinary indeed and glorious.

    How does Vos put it? Eschatology precedes soteriology.

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  29. Terry, that may be but the difference would seem to be how redeemed life is to be lived in the interim. Some say it’s marked by obedience, gratitude, patience, humility, done peacefully and quietly. Others say it’s marked by impact, influence, and transformation. It’s hard to see how believing that redemption accomplished implies the latter; it seems to suggest something is yet quite undone and needs a little help. Which is why it makes sense when Van Drunen says: “Those who hold a traditional Protestant view of justification consistently should not find a redemptive transformationist position attractive. As some of the Reformers grasped, a two-kingdoms doctrine is a proper companion to a Protestant doctrine of justification.” In other words, is neo-Calvinist transformationism the culturalist variant of faith plus works?

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  30. Zrim, maybe we’ll need the Sun for its gravity and not its light. But when did needing something because the justification for its existence.

    As to faith plus works…only if personal sanctification also implies faith plus works. Straw man.

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  31. Terry, and don’t forget warmth. But if we won’t need the sun for its light, what makes you think we’ll need it for gravity and warmth? Still, the language seems intended less literally than figuratively and to convey that eternity will be extraordinary. This speculation on the details of a future existence we haven’t experienced seems as futile as the speculation on the details of the garden pre-fall.

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  32. Zrim, yes, of course we mustn’t be too literal or too speculative. But you’re the one who keeps mentioning “no sun” as if it’s a proof-text for the huge discontinuities you anticipate. The text actually says there is no need for the sun not that there is no sun. All I’m asking is that you don’t misappropriate the passage.

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  33. z: as futile as the speculation on the details of the garden pre-fall.

    mcmark: except for knowing that there was a conditional promise of “life off probation” after x amount of years? As I remember, the covenant with Adam promised death for sin. Logically, that means continued life if no sin. But does it mean “life without any more probation” and “increased and confirmed to last” blessings?
    People speculate….

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  34. Terry, whether “no need for” or “no sun,” who talks like that who doesn’t also intend huge discontinuities? The physical presence of the Lord is a huge discontinuity from his absence, isn’t it? You know, faith versus sight and all that.

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  35. I am so thankful that we can affirm that the one act of obedience by Christ is enough to constitute as legally righteous the elect were were legally constituted as guilty by Adam, and do this without recourse to speculation about what Adam “might have” or “could have” done”.

    The merits of the once for all time death of Christ—-no hope without it. There can be no faith in the gospel without that death as justice being revealed in the gospel.

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  36. the bart the cat plot continues to thicken:

    ‘Therefore, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay does not intend to return Bart to the Hutson family.
    ‘We are prepared to fight for the best interests of this cat.’

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  37. mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the yankees
    the Lord is even now trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored

    the yankees have builded the Lord an altar in the evening dews,
    the Lord’s Day is now marching on

    as you deal with the southern rebels, so with the yankees my grace shall dwell
    as long as you do it, and the better you follow your Christian vocation
    all covenants being one covenant, and all covenants conditional on
    grace enabling you to do, but not on your own or by yourself

    the yankees are sifting out the hearts of men before the Lord’s judgment seat
    with a glory in the burning bosoms of the good guys like you and me
    as he died to take the initiative for smart sinners to accept him into their hearts
    so let us kill those who disagree, in order to keep free
    those in the natural this age covenant, which is working for the common good
    as our terrible swift swords define the common good

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  38. Stephen H Webb—We profess that Jesus will return in the future, and thus we are resigned to the absence of his glorified body in the present, but in the meantime, where is He?

    “Continuity has to take precedence over discontinuity. After all, we are material creatures, and even if we define God in terms of immateriality, we cannot define heaven in that way. Jesus ascended there in his resurrected body, and all bodies take space—even if glorified bodies take glorified space…The resurrection transformed the material of Jesus’ body, but the ascension did not change the nature of space.”

    Farrow says that… the ascension was an ontological act that involved no actual movement— not only did Jesus not travel through space, he also did not end up in a place. Farrow quotes John of Damascus saying, “We do not hold that the right hand of the Father is an actual place,” and elaborates by calling Jesus’ destination “this place that is not a place. Farrow agrees with Thomas Aquinas, who writes that, “Christ’s body is not in the sacrament in the same way as a body is in a place, ”

    http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/12/the-problem-of-place-in-douglas-farrows-ascension-theology

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