Monday, April 17, 2006

A discussion with an evangelist (part 2)

A fictional dialogue, continued from Part 1.

Evangelist: But you don’t know what you are talking about. The joy that we will feel in heaven will be way more than anything that you have ever experienced.
Kevin: Do you have family members or close friends who are not saved?
E: I do. But I trust that God will soften their hearts to accept his message of salvation.
K: Do you love them?
E: Of course! That is why I pray for them all the time.
K: But if they don’t accept Jesus before they die, they will go to hell, right?
E: It hurts me deeply to think about it, but yes. Romans 3:23 says that all have fallen short of the kingdom, and John 3:16 says that the only way to heaven is through Jesus. It is their own free-willed choice to reject Jesus.
K: Tell me, would you still feel hurt when in heaven? I mean, would you still feel sadness or sorrow over your family members and friends who did not accept Jesus, and who are suffering in hell?
E: One would think so. But as I said before, the Bible says that I will feel no sorrow in heaven.
K: So you won’t feel any sadness for them when you enter heaven?
E: The Bible says no, so I don’t think I will.
K: You see, this is what also bugs me about the whole heaven thing. Despite the fact that your friends and family will be experiencing a great deal of pain, you will feel nothing for them. How can you know of their suffering but not feel any sorrow?
E: I read
this article by the Christian philosopher, Peter Kreeft, and under point 7 he suggests that our memories regarding the unsaved will be erased when we enter heaven.
K: (stunned silence)
E: We will not remember memories that bring about sadness or sorrow.
K: So you won't even remember your own friends and family members who you loved in this life, and who chose against Jesus?
E: If you read Isaiah 65:16-17 and Revelation 21:4, this is what I think the Bible says. Thinking about the lost naturally brings about feelings of sadness and sorrow, but in heaven we won’t be able to think about such thoughts, because there will be no sorrow at all.
K: So not only will we not have the capacity to feel empathy or compassion, but our memories will also be erased? To me, your version of heaven sounds like some form of mental lobotomy.

To be continued . . .


Arthur said...

couple of problems with your "evangelist," mostly that he isn't reflecting what the vast majority of Christians believe. Now, we both know that there are people who do believe these things. But, why spend time arguing with that?

John 3:16 does not say the only way to heaven is through Jesus. it says those who believe will be saved - nothing about those who don't. A better verse for your evangelist would be John 14:6 - I am the way, the truth, the life. No one can come to the Father exept through me.

Note, however, that Jesus claims to be the way to the father, not simply the way to heaven. jesus didn't really talk much about heaven. he talked about knowing God know and into forever (a concept know in the Bible as the Kingdom of God, which is not the same as heaven).

i think most people have a concept of heaven that is much more influenced by Hollywood and their own hopes than anything Jesus or the Bible speaks of.

as to us not remembering anyone in heaven (or, more appropriately, eternity in God's kingdom), that is something i have never heard in any church, Bible study, or book. Neith of the scriprutes you use say that either. they do say that God is going to make things so good that we wont think of what used to be. that is, of course, poetic language. it does not say or imply that we will be unable to remember. rather, things will be so good that the past will sem to fade away (much like my childhood has for me already).

but again, seems like you are making a lot of argument about heaven. while many "evangelists" do the same, it's really a secondary issue anyway. God is interested in your life now. Are you loving people now? Are you loving the Creator now? Whose to say that forever isn't going to look a lot like now, only a thousand times better? That's actually more reflective of the biblical picture anyway.

Cori said...

I really like what Arthur says here. The Bible really says very little about heaven and a whole lot more about 'the Kingdom of God' which is here.

Within a kingdom paradigm, I wonder if people and emotions take on a completely different dimension that is very difficult to understand outside of a kingdom paradigm.

For example, in a kingdom paradigm, people may leave their families in order to further that kingdom. Their perception of family widens from the biological family to the family of all those who follow and seek Jesus. It is not that their care for their immediate family diminshes, but rather that their view of family expands. Prioritizing loved ones, both in the here and now and in the future, becomes less important than being available to serve the wider 'human family'. Part of the kingdom mentality is letting go that tight grip we so often have on people close to us, giving them over to God's care, and, in the process, allowing us to love less tightly, less needily, more freely. Perhaps this is less these-people-belong-to-me-and-I-must-remember-and-care-only-for-them and more 'I am loved by God and want to be a vessel for that love to flow through to all people I encounter daily'. So this would be a reality in this world and the next (whatever form that might take).

Similarly with emotions. The further I journey into the kingdom of God, the more I change my perceptions of emotions and how we feel. Henri Nouwen writes beautifully about embracing our suffering and brokennes in order to find healing. It is these sorts of concepts that are so foreign outside of a kingdom mentality. At the risk of venturing into Bhuddist philosophy, there's something transcendant about embracing suffering and then even coming to a place where suffering is joy ... When the Bible describes a reality in which there is no pain or suffering could it be describing a place where we have so embraced our brokenness that it is no longer a handicap but a strength? A reality where, without being machosistic, we welcome pain for the good things it brings so that we no longer perceive it as painful but a joy? Did Paul not perhaps already live in a reality of 'no more pain' in a sense when he counted it joy to suffer for Christ?

The Bible is so metaphorical. It is all pictures to give us hints and clues of a paradigm of existance that is so mind-blowingly outside of our current reality, and yet possible and available to us in the here and now.

Is heaven somewhere we will go after we die? Or is heaven really just the kingdom of God, a paradigm shift, a reality, a step out of the matrix, that we enter into bit by bit as we journey with God every day?

marc said...

Hmmm...Heaven. Well I don't think I can tell you what heavens like because I don't know.

Kevin - has anyone ever said to you 'I don't know' with regards to your faith?

Mystery, that's part of my faith - things I can't sometimes I don't know and for some it can be a real challenge to not have any answer.

But it is honesty nevertheless.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Arthur

Thank you for your comment. Your points are well received. The reason why I wrote the ‘discussion with evangelist’ articles in a dialogue form was to make the posts more interesting. However, I must admit that when I first thought of the idea, I knew the following weaknesses would be experienced:

1)As a result of the evangelist being the product of my imagination, the post would clearly be biased towards the ideas of the skeptic (i.e., me); and

2) The post is focussed towards fundamentalist Christian views, not necessarily towards liberal or post-evangelical ideas. I think I failed to make this clear. In these posts the ideas of the evangelist are actual ideas that I’ve seen posted on fundamentalist sites, and ideas that I came across in my own church while growing up.

However, I do think your criticism is valid, and do appreciate the feedback. Theology is one field in which I’m still much of a tenderfoot, and writing these posts is one way in which I can publicly discuss, exchange and test ideas that I’ve read over the internet or learnt from conversations with other theists or atheists.

So please, keep on commenting.

All the best

eddie said...

Theology is one field in which I’m still much of a tenderfoot, and writing these posts is one way in which I can publicly discuss, exchange and test ideas that I’ve read over the internet or learnt from conversations with other theists or atheists.
Hey Kevin

Don’t beat yourself up – your thought process is right on track. I mean, there are more than 30,000 different Christian denominations, using the exact same book to interpret the scriptures they way they like, as such, creating a god in their own image. That’s one of the things that drove me away from Christianity. I quite frankly got tired of every sect dismissing the next sect with the same book while proclaiming “we have the truth” and they are “just heretics” and “misguided.” And then they say: that group doesn’t interpret the scriptures correctly, but boy, we think we have it more or less right. They about agree on only one thing, that is that Jesus Christ was a historical person, which is of course the very thing I don’t believe – imagine the paradox.

I guess I am saying your “evangelist” is far more common in Christianity, and “liberal/post modern” Christianity is far from being the new “orthodoxy.” Geez, it makes my brain hurt to figure out who’s who these days. ;-)

I completely understand your point as far as it relates to consciousness and memory, and maybe I can address it from a different angle. The more telling question which no theist have able to explain to me so far is: What spirit, what it does and how you know it exist? Since we understand that every aspect of human consciousness is tied to the natural brain, how does our “consciousness” transcend into spirit – whatever that is? And just before you think I am sorting coke, here is a great article that explains what I mean by that statement.

So, what is soul/sprit, other than “I don’t know” or "it's a mystery" and how does it eventually take over your memories and personality which is all part of the natural mind?

In that light, your evangelist makes a whole lot of sense.

take care

eddie said...


Kevin, would you mind sending me your e-mail address. Mine is:
nomailhere (at sign) gmail [dot] com.


. said...

For me I believe that God experiences greater conciousness than anyone, meaning that he not only experiences the greatest joy but also the greatest sorrow, they go hand in hand. So if we follow God we will become more concious and will be able to partake off greater sorrow and joy both. But this would mean that the devil and his followers are completely numb, perhaps the numbness of loosing ones soul is why it is painful rather than the regret, I don't know.

It is interesting that the Evangalist could gather that from the Bible, that we forget memories of the lost, I wonder if that is the same in every version because I have never heard that we would forget the ones that "strayed" before. I wonder what the LDS church has to say about it, I should know.

I certainly don't think ignorance is bliss, and it couldn't be God's way otherwise who knows what could happen? He might ignore somebody and leave them out.

Love this post.

Zoe said...

There are people who have come out of fundamentalism who will nod their heads knowingly when they read this conversation with your fictional evangelist. They themselves were once the evangelist giving the answers or the skeptic asking the questions. It's not really all that fictional...if you know what I mean. Your conversation with the fictional evangelist is reality for many people.

The conservative evangelical church I "was" in, taught the same thing...that in heaven we won't remember those who are lost & burning in hell forever. No more tears, no sorrow, no pain...yet we will know our loved ones when we see them...when we get there...we will have memory of them.

Look forward to your next blog on the subject. :)

Aaron M. Rossetti said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron M. Rossetti said...


I just wanted to drop a quick note about a new blog that has just opened up called... Out of Christianity. It is a community that is inviting anyone that is coming or has come Out of Christianity to share there story and engage in discussion of their journey.

We were once not only Christians, but youth pastors, evangelists, nuns, and music ministers, yet we've left the Christian faith.

In order to create a 'safe' environment that is free from the evangelism that we used to engage in ourselves, we're asking that Christians respect this forum as being off limits to try and 'save' those of us that have already been set free. It didn't take long for this request to be violated by the ambitious Christians who were out to rescue the backsliders :-), so we're moderating all comments.

You can read ‘Your Invitation’ to catch the vision of what our purpose is and read some of our stories.