Archives For Heaven

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When it comes to Heaven, I’m a both/and kind of guy. By that I mean that it’s both a place to go when we die, and something we can help usher in here, now, today. How so, you say? In this way:

If we are in Jesus, we are his ambassadors–representives of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are called to make both a better here–and hereafter. As it says in James chapter one, “Pure religion, and undefiled, in the sight of God the Father is visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Jesus says, bluntly, that to have done it unto the least of these is to have done it unto him.

That is bringing heaven to earth.

Meeting the needs we’ve been equipped to meet, putting ourselves out there, sacrificing. That’s what Jesus did, and we are to go and do likewise.

Be that as it may, Heaven I believe is also a place. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, walked with God, and was taken. Was he taken to Hell? I don’t think so. Elijah likewise was taken up in a chariot. Lazarus was consoled at Abraham’s bosom.

Jesus told the thief “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” And forty days after his resurrection, Christ himself ascended to somewhere outside of our space/time continuum. Not to mention the fact he told his disciples, and by extension us, that he went to prepare a place.

That where he was we would be also.

Moreover, the Apostle Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote of a man caught up to the third heaven, seeing things it wasn’t lawful to convey. Beyond that, there’s the entirety of the Book of Revelation, with its descriptions of streets of gold, gates of pearl…

But far more meaningful to me is the passage which tells us that God shall wipe every tear from our eyes, that death shall be no more.

Which we most emphatically do not see here and now.

While we should indeed do all that we can to make this earth more like heaven now, the Scriptures plainly state that heaven–the place Jesus ascended to, without death, where his Father is–is coming to earth someday.

God will make all things new.

Will you join me in shouting “Hallelujah?”
So let’s do both, shall we? Inaugurate God’s kingdom here and now, and bring as many with us as we can when we go?
What do you say?

'Harry Potter' photo (c) 2005, Claire Schmitt - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Folks, I’ve made no secret here on the blog of the fact that I like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. The timeless themes of self-sacrifice, loyalty, of making hard choices–doing the right thing, rather than the easy thing–are what are so attractive about the books. That, and the rather obvious parallels the story has with the Gospel. (Aside from all that, as they say in England, the narrative is just a corking good yarn.)

Taken together, these form a strong (in mind) case as to why these books should have a place in your library.

Continue Reading…

>Screenshot of Osama bin Laden Blog Postphoto © 2011 longislandwins | more info (via: Wylio)

Before you flame me, please understand that the question in this post’s title is an honest one, sincerely asked. And I ask because, as a self-professed Christian inclusivist, I have to.

My question is primarily motivated by a careful reading of two books:

C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, and Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town.

(If you’ve read either of these books, then the passages I’m going to cite should be familiar to you; if not, at the very least you’ll gain some context for my question).

In the penultimate chapter of Last Battle, “Further Up and Further in, Lewis relays a dialogue that takes place between Emeth [interestingly, the Hebrew word for truth], a Tarkaan, and servant of Tash, and Aslan, the Lion, and Son of the Emperor Oversea:

[Emeth speaking] “But the Glorious One [Aslan] bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine, but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.”

As you may, or may not, know, in Lewis’ Narnian Chronicles, Aslan is the allegorical stand-in for Jesus Christ. Thus in this scene, we have “Jesus” telling Emeth that his service to another god was in fact service to Him. The qualifying factor? As presented in the next paragraph: the sincerity of Emeth’s service.

Apparently, Emeth came from a country–Tarkaan–where Aslan was either unheard of, or presented as something other than he was. In any case, according to Aslan, what Emeth thought he was seeking in Tash, he was–unbeknownst to him–actually seeking in Aslan.

What if we substitute the names “Osama” and “Allah” for “Emeth” and “Tash” in the dialogue recounted above, respectively? Surely that is not a stretch of Lewis’ logic, right?

Now I recognize that Lewis’ work is fiction, and is not meant to be read as theology. But certainly it has theological implications?

I read somewhere that Rachel Held Evans considers this passage a critical one in informing her understanding of the eternal fate of those who die without ever hearing the Gospel. So I would say the theological import is not lost on her.

In chapter seven of her excellent book, Evolving In Monkey Town, Mrs. Evans relates the sad tale of Zarmina, a woman in Afghanistan accused of murdering her husband. Zarmina was apparently accused, arrested, made to confess, imprisoned for three years, and then summarily executed by the Taliban before a crowd of 30,000.

Mrs. Evans is appalled (as I am as well) at the unfairness of it: that a woman so treated, who lived by the light she was given (Islam), should not only be executed in this life, but doomed to Hell for all eternity by a loving God–and all because she didn’t have the good fortune to be born in a country where she would have an opportunity to hear the Gospel? It is, to Mrs. Evans, monumentally unfair.

In her own words, Mrs. Evans says, “We just assume that little kids and mentally disabled people go to heaven,” I said. “The Bible doesn’t come right out and say that. So why can’t we believe that people without the gospel go to heaven? What’s the difference? Why won’t anyone give me a straight answer on this?”

Indeed, where is the justice in it? Unless, like Emeth, Zarmina, in her simple, devout, unknowing sincerity, truly sought Christ as she seemingly sought Allah? God alone knows.

Like Zarmina, I think a case can be made that Osama bin Laden was likewise sincere–very, very sincere–in his beliefs. His interpretations of the Koran were perhaps on the extremist fringe, but he certainly carried everything he believed through to (him) their logical conclusions. He sincerely, devoutly sought “Tash.”

Also, like Zarmina, it seems that Mr. bin Laden (to all appearances) never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel in his fifty-four years of life. Born in Saudi Arabia, he was raised a strict Muslim, studied at a Muslim university, and lived in Islamic countries his entire life.

I know: this is tough stuff. I’m merely trying to follow the arguments made by Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Evans through to their logical conclusions.

What is God to do? Only He truly knows the state, the contents, of the respective hearts of Zarmina and Osama bin Laden. But if God is to afford Zarmina His gracious understanding, certainly in fairness He must do the same for Mr. bin Laden, right? Taking into account his upbringing, the hardships of his life, etc., that led him to the path he was on…

What do you think?