Will Heaven Be Boring?

Maybe not the most sanctified question but after reading a fascinatingly sobering piece about the “troubles” in Northern Ireland I had to ask.

Sure the idea of no more suffering has appeal:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling placea of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,b and God himself will be with them as their God.c 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21)

But part of what makes a story like this one in the New Yorker about Belfast so riveting is precisely the presence of mourning, crying, pain, loss, injustice, and death. For instance:

The disappearance of Jean McConville was eventually recognized as one of the worst atrocities that occurred during the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. But at the time no one, except the McConville children, seemed especially concerned. When Helen returned home, she and Archie went out to look for Jean, but nobody could—or would—tell them anything about where she had been taken or when she might be back. Some weeks later, a social worker visited the apartment and noted, in a report, that the McConville children had been “looking after themselves.” Their neighbors in Divis Flats were aware of the kidnapping, as was a local parish priest, but, according to the report, they were “unsympathetic.”

Rumors circulated that McConville hadn’t been abducted at all—that she had abandoned her children and eloped with a British soldier. In Belfast, this was an incendiary allegation: Catholic women who consorted with the enemy were sometimes punished by being tied to a lamppost after having their heads shaved and their bodies tarred and feathered. The McConvilles were a “mixed” family; Jean was born Protestant and converted to Catholicism only after meeting her husband. The family had lived with Jean’s mother, in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood in East Belfast, until 1969, when they were driven out, as internecine tensions sharpened. They sought refuge in West Belfast, only to discover that they were outsiders there as well. Several weeks after the abduction, on January 17, 1973, a crew from the BBC visited the apartment and taped a segment. As the younger siblings huddled on the sofa—pale children with downcast eyes, looking shy and frightened—the reporters asked Helen if she had any idea why her mother had left. “No,” she said, shaking her head. Agnes McConville, who was thirteen, noted, hopefully, that her mother was wearing red slippers when she was taken away. She added, “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and pray hard for her to come back.”

So the dark and conflicted parts of life that make the Coen Brothers movies sing will no longer be part of the titles in my Netflix queue in the New Jerusalem. Hard to fathom.

Not only that, but the very notion of a narrative and a direction in history — part of what defines dramas, stories, movies, and history, a beginning, middle, and end — will no longer be part of human consciousness. Or what will be is some sort of awareness of living in a constant or on-going end.

Again, hard to imagine. Can anyone help (all about) me?

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19 thoughts on “Will Heaven Be Boring?

  1. Altered psychology. We only experience boredom because that’s how out minds/brains work.

    We can imagine a creature that never experiences that emotional state, regardless of kind of stimulus or lack thereof.

    God already has an alien psychology after all.

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  2. British comedy writer Roy Clarke had similar questions:

    Compo: Do your reckon angels wear underpants?

    Blamire: You what?

    Compo: Under their overcoats. It never shows in the pictures. ‘Ere, do you reckon they’ve got parts, you know, to hide?

    Blamire: He’s a scruffy peasant. They don’t need them, do they? There’s no mucking about like that.

    Clegg: You see, no variety even in the heavenly chorus. Just rank after rank of sopranos.

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  3. I’m assuming that for a while heaven is simply PTSD treatment. And then following that there is a directional arrow, toward a greater understanding of the God who is now seen. So instead of the drama coming from the gyration from far away to near, from going to a far country and coming back, the purpose is always in progressing in the right direction. Just because things are mentally understandable doesn’t make them spiritually possible immediately. There is still a telos we might actually understand there.

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  4. I have a writer I like, that helps me when I ponder such things:

    At the very heart of the Christian religion, at any rate,
    despite what is being said today, is the hope of heaven.
    That hope is not selfish, but it is the highest and noblest
    thought, perhaps, that has ever been placed in the mind
    of man; it is the highest and noblest thought because
    it involves not mere selfish enjoyment but the glory of
    God. For the glory of God, realized through the
    creatures that He has made, eternity will not be too
    Man’s chief end is not merely to glorify God and
    enjoy Him, but it is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him
    for ever.”

    This thought of heaven runs all through the New
    Testament; and it is particularly prominent in the
    teaching of Jesus. Not only is it important in itself,
    moreover, but it has a very important bearing upon the
    subject of the present little book. Faith is closely con-
    nected in the New Testament with hope; and it is con-
    trasted in notable passages with sight. In contrast
    with sight it is represented as a way by which we can
    learn of things that are to be ours in the future world.
    If, therefore, we are to understand in any adequate
    manner what the New Testament says about faith, we
    must attend very carefully to what the New Testament
    says about heaven.

    But we cannot understand at all what the New Tes-
    tament says about heaven, unless we attend also to what
    the New Testament says about hell; in the New Testa-
    ment heaven and hell appear in contrast. That contrast
    is found most clearly of all, strange though it may seem
    to some persons, in the teaching of Jesus. Jesus speaks
    not only about heaven but also, with very great plain-
    ness, about hell. “Fear not them which kill the body,”
    said our Lord (to quote a typical utterance) , “but are
    not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is
    able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” 1

    These words were not spoken by Jonathan Edwards;
    they were not spoken by Cotton Mather; they were not
    spoken by Calvin, or by Augustine, or by Paul. But
    they were spoken by Jesus.

    And when they are put together with many other
    words like them in the Gospels, they demonstrate the
    utter falsity of the picture of Jesus which is being con-
    structed in recent years. According to that picture,
    Jesus preached what was essentially a religion of this
    world; he advocated a filial attitude toward God and
    promoted a more abundant life of man, without being
    interested in vulgar details as to what happens beyond
    the grave; in the words of Professor Ellwood, he “con-
    cerned himself but little with the question of existence
    after death.”

    In order to destroy this picture, it is necessary only
    to go through a Gospel harmony and note the passages
    where Jesus speaks of blessedness and woe in a future
    life. If you do that, you may be surprised at the re-
    sult; certainly you will be surprised at the result if
    you have previously been affected in slightest degree by
    the misrepresentation of Jesus which dominates the
    religious literature of our time. You will discover that
    the thought not only of heaven but also the thought of
    hell runs all through the teaching of Jesus.
    2 source, pages 221 and following

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  5. used to wonder that; now seems a legitmate nonbeliever question but not so much for a believer, who, believing God, instead ponders how it will never be so and how we won’t be Adam/Eves,having everything yet thinking otherwise 1 Cor 2:9; Heb 11:1,6

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  6. If Darryl’s in it, heaven certainly will be boring. 😛

    I’ve been musing on the notion that “heaven” for the Old Life commentariat will be a lot like Sartre’s “No Exit.” God will let them think they’re in heaven, although like the Old Life comments section, it’ll be pretty miserable.

    “Wow, heaven isn’t what I expected. This kind of sucks.”

    “Yeah, but think how bad it is for the non-Elect. Loser Ken. Jason and the Callers. That Van Dyke fellow.”

    “Well, when you put it that way, yeah, this is pretty great. Except the music is so bloody awful. The same Psalms over and over and over again, for all eternity. Don’t tell Darryl, but I’d give my eyeteeth for Bach’s Mass in B minor, y’know? Hell, I’d settle for “Day By Day.”

    “Shaddup and pass the hookah.”

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  7. From Pr. James Kusko (and I tend to agree with him:

    “… Not long ago I attended a funeral where one of the hymns that was sung was “I’m But a Stranger Here”. The refrain that repeats throughout this hymn is “Heav’n is my home.” It’s a nice thought. Every Christian should readily acknowledge that upon their death, they will go to heaven. It’s not boastful for we know that it is not our worth that takes us to heaven, but by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ who died for our sin.

    But I wondered, “Is heaven really to be my home … forever and ever?” Or is heaven to be our place to await the resurrection of all saints? I believe that when God created the heavens and the earth, He intended man to dwell upon the earth and to have dominion over the earth. The fall changed everything. But is it not God’s intention to restore what He once created and declared “good” … “very good”?

    Isaiah declares, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create;” Is 65:17–18

    Peter writes, “ But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed…. But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Pe 3:10–13

    So while heaven is where we will dwell until the resurrection of our bodies, is it not for us to expect that the “New Earth” will become our home forever and ever?…”

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  8. Darryl,

    May I suggest http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi.html ?

    Here’s an excerpt: “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it. To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality—this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John’s Gospel: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22). We must think along these lines if we want to understand the object of Christian hope, to understand what it is that our faith, our being with Christ, leads us to expect.

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  9. Scott Clark—There will be continuity between this existence and the new heavens and the new earth. After all, they are the new heavens and the new earth. That expression, from 2 Peter 3:13, indicates a degree of continuity. Christians will be glorified humans. If we read that language in its immediate context (2 Pet 3:8–13) it is a promise that Christ is coming, that there will be a judgment, there will be a purification of this world. .. After the flood, the world continued to exist but it was purified, in a relative way. It was not utterly destroyed and re-made.

    Scott Clark—“Does this mean there will be no cultural activity in the new heavens and the new earth? No but it means that when Christians make claims about cultural activities in the new heavens and new earth they are drawing inferences that may or may not be true. They are speculative, i.e., they are conclusions drawn from premises but not unequivocally indicated by Scripture itself.”

    http://heidelblog.net/2015/02/bored-by-heaven-1/

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  10. These two old songs are simply not biblical—
    When His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies,
    And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there”

    (The Old Rugged Cross) “Then He’ll call me some day, to my home far away,
    Where His glory forever I’ll share.”

    David Platt, Radical, p 179—“The key to taking back your faith from the American dream is to see death as a reward.

    Mike Wittmer—“-If the thought of being cremated or rotting in the ground does not scare you and sicken you, there is no way you will ever put your faith in Jesus. Why would you? Jesus came to solve a problem you don’t think exists…..”

    Philippians 2: 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

    John 3: If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

    not us with God, but God with us

    2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

    https://mikewittmer.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/going-to-heaven/

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  11. Funny, the tragedy that makes good drama in print or film never seems as enjoyable when it occurs in ‘real’ life. Though the battle between good and evil is epic on film, and thoroughly invigorating, I still think what’s ahead trumps all.
    Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, what has been prepared for those who love Him.

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  12. Did anyone actually read the whole NewYorker piece?

    I’ll have my phone read it to me while I drive.

    Hi, a.

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  13. Yep. No Worries. My devotional rocks. The OPC is pretty cool, you should check out your local one, if there’s one near by.

    Did you like the New Yorker piece like DGH did?

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