Some time ago, Gary Scott Smith, then chair of the History Department at Grove City College, wrote a book called Heaven in the American Imagination. He said our ideas of heaven come, not just from religious tradition, but from the culture and current events. He said people’s view of heaven has changed over time.
Prior to 1800, people viewed heaven as a place of worship and service to God.
After the civil war, ideas about heaven shifted to images of service, education, and personal growth.
Heaven now is viewed as “a place of comfort, enriching entertainment, self-actualization, robust relationships, and bliss.” Heaven is seen as a haven from the ills of the world, a magnificent home, a vacation resort, a perpetual playground, a therapeutic center. Some are afraid that heaven could be boring, hence an emphasis on great entertainment.
Dr Smith wasn’t trying to make a religious point. He was simply saying that people tend to project their ideas of heaven and the resurrection onto God. It’s been going on for centuries.
But our ideas are too small.
Our faith is stuck on Good Friday, and so we fail to grasp the significance of Easter.
Why stuck on Good Friday? Because nothing moves us quite like the idea of someone laying down their life for another. It’s powerful. So, it’s not so hard to believe that Jesus died for us; that our sins have been forgiven.
We can grasp the idea that the slate has been wiped clean. God cares. It all fits into a therapeutic world view. It’s all about what God does for us.
Of course, God loves us; that’s what God is for.
Of course, we deserve another chance.
So, the Good Friday story is one we can kind of imagine.
But the resurrection is where our worldview and our experience fail us.
Nothing prepares us for the God who rises for us.
Death is not the end!
This is way more than therapy; more than self-actualization; way, way more than entertainment.
We can walk with God again.
Our actions in this life have eternal consequences.
God is making all things new. Time to get unstuck.