Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Two imaginative views of heaven

I have started reading Scot McKnight's new book 'The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About Life To Come.' I like all of Scot's books that I've read, and this appears to be another good one. He looks at questions like: Who will be in heaven? Will there be families in heaven? What about children who die? What about cremation? Purgatory? Pets? and a whole host of other popular questions people have about heaven.

In this post I want to write about two views of heaven he describes in the chapter "Imaginations of the Imaginative." He says on p. 11, "We want heaven to be what we believe heaven ought to be. Said differently, people imagine that heaven will be very similar to what they think it will be."

He goes on,
"Because we have such wonderfully fertile and, yes, God-given imaginations, we can plot a history of how the church has thought about heaven. The story can be captured in two sophisticated words: a THEOCENTRIC heaven (God centered) and a KINGDOM-CENTRIC heaven (world-transformed centered).

In the theocentric heaven, the focus and unending characteristic is praise of God. The kingdom-centric heaven focuses on the new heavens and the new earth, where God's people will live with one another after the pattern of life God intended for them."

Set in a list format:

Theocentric view:
  • God
  • Glory of God
  • Mode of life: worship
  • Atmosphere: holiness
  • Gathered for worship
  • Family eliminated
  • Fellowship diminished
  • Location: heaven up there
  • Spiritual existence
Kingdom-Centric view:
  • God and God's people
  • God's perfect society
  • Mode of life: worship & fellowship
  • Atmosphere: justice & peace
  • Social engagement
  • Family perfected
  • Fellowship emphasized
  • Location: new heavens, new earth
  • Embodied existence

Scot says that throughout the history of the church, pastors, priests, and parents have cooked the books by taking sides and exaggerating one of these views at the expense of the other.

So, the premise of the book appears to be: rather than appealing to overdeveloped imaginations, what if we subject our view of heaven to the Bible? He says the Bible's promise is the place to begin all talk about heaven. That is what I am going to be reading about in the coming days.

I think it will be good. Certainly I have been guilty of taking one view over another (and likely throwing many babies out with bath water). I'll try to update the blog from time to time on what I learn.