In the February 2 issue of Newsweek magazine’s “Beliefwatch”, Lisa Miller, writes, “You likely believe that when you die, you’re going to heaven. More than 80 percent of Americans do.
But in what form? Are you “you”? If so, are you old or young, fat or thin? If not, what are you? An angel? A spirit? A spark? On the question of resurrection, the consensus breaks down. According to a 2005 NEWSWEEK POLL, only half of Americans think of resurrection as a physical event, a revivification of flesh after death. More than a third think of it as something spiritual, an ascension of the soul that leaves the corpse behind. Such widespread hedging infuriates the orthodox.”
Miller goes on to write about how a small group of orthodox Christian and Jewish Scholars like N.T. Wright and Randy Alcorn (both Christian) are arguing that heaven is a real, miraculous resurrection from the dead.
She also talks about a Harvard scholar Jon Levenson who has written an award winning 2006 book, “Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel” arguing that a real, physical, bodily resurrection has its origin in the Jewish Scriptures.
Miller concludes her column referring to the fact that the 4th and 5th century Christian theologian, Augustine, “Devoted himself to describing the benefits of the real resurrected body. In heaven, he wrote in “City of God,” you will be your perfect self: unblemished and 30-something. If you were fat in life, you will become pleasingly thinner; if too thin, you will become robust. According to Augustine, ” we will be in our physical bodies in a universe that has no dimension, and we will know God without interpretation.”
The article concludes that our bodies will be the very same we had in life but beautiful.
It’s been interesting to me as I’ve watched some of our scholars and authors come back to those parts of the Bible that describe a much more earth-centered heaven, and eternity as the experience of life and relationships as real as we know them, but eternally better.
While I’m intrigued with the fact that a popular publication like Newsweek would pick up the subject, it exposes some of the mixed feelings I have about the life beyond. Still get stuck at times wondering whether, in heaven, we will have lost the ability to trust and hope in God for what we cannot yet see. Or, in that life, will faith and hope merely be moved to a perfect level where together we are able to really believe with a confident hope that something “this good” could last, and grow, and turn out better than our wildest imagination– forever.
After unnerving myself with what I don’t know, I end up coming back time and again to the reassuring words of our Lord, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:1-3).
Oh, and by the way, the pigeons… guess they reflect the way am thinking about me, and us– so real, so common… and yet sitting together, on the edge of something so far beyond our ability to really understand…