Category Archives: Heaven

Two in the bush

A common critique from a secular perspective of certain formulations of Christianity is essentially a variation of the idea that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

So, the critic argues, since there are good things here and now that are well-evidenced, this is worth more than things that are put forth as possible future goods in standard Christianity in some sort of Paradise or Heaven.

How is a Christian to respond? I think there are two major points to be made.

1. If one ‘lets go of the bird in the hand’, so to speak, along the lines that are often advocated within Christian practice, one can find that multiple birds return or perch anew on one’s hand (love, inner peace, joy, and so on). That this occurs in many cases seems obvious, and in such cases a giving up of various things isn’t actually a giving up. Once God is put in first place (a typical Christian idea goes), a large number of other good things will be added typically in the here and now.

2. Having said that, the evidence that one can obtain the ‘two birds in the bush’ later on is stronger than is often thought. That is, the lines of evidence which converge on some sort of continued existence, where the goods that can be obtained there far exceed the goods here and now are multiple.

The first and central line of evidence is the experience many Christians have, after which they are left with a feeling that they know there is a Heaven, and that one can get to it. That is, it seems that they perceive or have knowledge of something which corresponds to some degree to the Christian notions of God and Heaven. The witnesses are many and, in most cases, credible in other aspects (doctors, architects, teachers, and so on).

Another line of evidence is in the many people who have died, and then reported something like the Christian Paradise or Heaven* upon resuscitation.

* I would argue that Paradise should be used for the immediate state a subjective self enters into, which is a sort of closeness to God, whereas Heaven should be used for the resurrected, fully bodily state (as N.T. Wright refers to it, the ‘Heaven after Heaven’) that Christianity holds will obtain at some future time. Be that as it may, Heaven in popular vernacular is used to refer to the immediate state a subjective self or soul enters into.

A third line of evidence is considerations on the nature of the continuity of the subjective self (for example,  we say a person has the same basic subjective self at time 1 and time 2, where the matter of which their bodies is composed has changed, and the form of that matter has also changed – therefore, neither the stuff of which they are made nor the particular formation of it can account for the continuity of their subjective self).

Spirituality is everyday, concrete, and widely applicable

Spirituality is everyday, concrete, and widely applicable.

It’s about developing will-power to overcome short-term behaviour (i.e., the point of asceticism). It’s about the habit of breathing deeply, say. It’s about experiences related to being in nature. It’s the habit of asking ‘How can I make this a bit better?’ Of getting closer to habitually treating others as you would like to be treated. Of tending to focus on beauty, truth, and goodness.

These aren’t esoteric or ‘airy-fairy’ – or, at least, they don’t need to be. Spiritual practices have obvious, everyday results – or, they should.

In Christianity, cultivating these practices is part of what’s known as ‘theosis’, which on the Christian understanding is to become more Godlike (theo-, God-, which is to say, the Good).

Similarly, the societal goal for Christians is the ‘Kingdom of God.’ This isn’t an airy-fairy, disembodied state. Rather, it’s a highly-functioning society with humans who are physical, who are engaging in (real) relationships with other humans.

It is obvious to see how ‘spiritual’ practices such as listed above (and many more) can contribute to this state of affairs.

My impression is that some Christians think spiritual practice is equivalent to going to a Church service for an hour or two a day a week. Rather, it is better to think of this as the cherry, on top of the icing, on top of the cake.

Put another way, ideally, something like a weekly Church service is a lever, that can help as one way to catalyze further spiritual growth. The growing, learning, and so on can often be done or catalyzed in the other 110 hours, not just the 2 hours when one is in a Church – and there are many other potential catalysts.

So, the point of spiritual practices is to create habits that have impact on everyday happenings, both personally and societally. Spirituality is all about implementation.

How will the Kingdom of God be manifested?

How will the Kingdom of God be manifested?

Although Christians believe that the Kingdom of God (= Good) can (will) manifest, and this is central to Christian thought and practice, not as central is how it might manifest.

According to Christianity, if history and everyday experience are a guide, then God works through things to bring about certain results. He guides people who do things or achieves results through processes in time. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that the Kingdom of God might manifest through people or things being guided by God.

So, what are we looking for – what does the Kingdom of God (sometimes referred to as Heaven) look like according to Christianity? It is a society in which humans have healthful, vigourous, fully physical bodies that are immortal (so, aren’t programmed to die), where the society itself is functioning on a very high level, and where humans co-reign with the living (i.e., on-going) Christ (i.e., divine wisdom) as stewards of earth and the universe more generally speaking. (This is the grand vision of Christianity.)

It seems we are moving towards aspects of something like this right now, and the principle way to do that is science and technology guided by the good (in Christianity, = God). Science and technology are essentially ‘figuring out how things work,’ and given the Christian view of things, they also move us closer to possible stewardship, in alignment with the Christ, of the planet and the universe more generally.

Since from the Christian perspective God uses various technologies to guide the world towards the Good already, it seems this is a potential path to helping to bring about the Kingdom of God.

Why would holy people reincarnate in Heaven?

Why would holy people (in whatever relevant sense of ‘holy’) reincarnate in Heaven?

Heaven, according to Christianity, is not a disembodied state for ‘spirits’. Rather, it is a future society consisting of fully embodied, physical, robust people who are engaging in highly optimal relationships with other people.

The idea is that holy people will reincarnate (‘resurrect’) into this society.

Assuming reincarnation is plausible (and it may not be, see here – but this is the idea in Christianity), a question is: why would certain people reincarnate in this future society, as opposed to others (i.e., why would some people ‘go to Heaven’ and not others)?

One possible answer is somewhat obvious – people who are ‘holy’ are people who would choose to be in this kind of society.

(This leads to the idea that people who are currently incarnated in some sense may have chosen to do so, for whatever reasons – perhaps.)

So, if people indeed are reincarnated at some future point into this kind of society, it might be because they choose to do so, while others don’t. I.e., Heaven isn’t a reward by God while Hell is a punishment, but rather they are the results of a choice (a kind of ’spiritual physics’), which is set up by our actions here and now. Also see here .