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"Our homeland in heaven": a rejoinder

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 Contents - Jun 2015AD2000 June 2015
Canonisation: Pope Francis canonises four heroic nuns - AD2000 Report
Cardinal Pell, Archbishop Fisher respond to Ballarat allegations - AD2000 Report
Life issues: Reflections on the death penalty - Anne Lastman
Sacred Heart: Burning appeal of the Heart of Jesus - Archbishop Julian Porteous
Jesus: the extra-Biblical evidence - Andrew Sholl
Family: Pope Francis upholds Church teaching on the family - Fr Ken CLark OLSC
Letters: Using e-Readers at Mass - Gerry van Hees
Letters: "Our homeland in heaven": a rejoinder - Dr Frank Mobbs
Letters: Sexual abuse of children - Arnold Jago
Books: THE ENVIRONMENT, by Pope Benedict XVI - Paul Simmons
Books: THE CHURCH AND CREATION, by Luis Colomer - Paul Simmons (reviewer)
Books: THE UNICORN IN THE SANCTUARY: New Age and the Catholic Church - Br Barry Coldrey
Reflection: Faith: dialogue of mind and heart - Audrey English

Audrey English's article "Our homeland is in heaven" (AD2000, April, 2015) provides an example of a failure common throughout Christian history, the failure to resist putting into Scripture what is not there ..

Examples: She says that in heaven friendships made on earth will continue; we shall know such mysteries as  the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption; we shall see the body of Christ; after the resurrection of the body "we shall appreciate all the beauty of creation, be enchanted by harmonious music".

Question: how does she know all this?

We have no reason to believe there is a heaven other than the revelation given us by the Lord Jesus.

The evidence for this revelation lies mostly in the Gospels which record his teachings. To that record we must go.

That teaching is remarkable for (a) its telling us that heaven is highly desirable, and (b) telling us hardly anything about it.

These two features are aptly expressed by St Paul in the quotation which Ms English gives us from 1 Corinthians 2:9: heaven is that which "eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him." (1Cor. 2:9).

St Paul thus expresses his own ignorance of the nature of heaven. In this matter, he is a model.

We might well ask "Where is heaven?"

According to the New Testament, heaven is located above the clouds, a common Hebrew belief: "And as he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight.

They were still staring into the sky when [two men said]... why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven ..." (Acts 1:10-11).

Jesus promised eternal life to those who have faith in him, so we know that the state of being in heaven is everlasting. But what makes it worthwhile attaining?

The New Testament reveals little in the way of an answer. Audrey English says it consists of an "intellectual vision". So says St Thomas and Pope Benedict XII.

The trouble with this account is that it is unappealing and has been strongly criticised as "intellectualist" by a great current philosopher/theologian, Germain Grisez, in his The Way of the Lord Jesus: Christian Moral Principles.

He argues that to be worthwhile attaining, heaven must furnish the saved with experiences of human goods, such as achievement, playfulness, exercise of skill.

Audrey English's account of heaven would be more convincing, if it rested on the  evidence contained in the New Testament.

Point Frederick, NSW

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 28 No 5 (June 2015), p. 7

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