Thursday, September 01, 2005

Will Heaven Be Boring?

As a kid, heaven always sounded boring to me. Won't we get sick of worshipping God all day? That sounds so repetitive. The only solution I ever came up was that at the eschaton we will be changed into the kind of people that won't get bored of God. Unfortunately, this just means we'll become boring too. Furthermore, this transformation hypothesis doesn't really affect the premise that God is boring. No wonder Christians, who proleptically participate in the eschaton (aka 'foretaste of glory divine'), are so bored and boring!

This week I have been reading J. Warren Smith's Passion and Paradise: Human and Divine Emotion in the Thought of Gregory of Nyssa, who deals with this problem as it was framed in the Patristic period. Apparently, Origen's teachings on human satiation implied that God was boring (or at least that humans can become bored in their contemplation of God). He believed that human beings had pre-existent souls who used to contemplate God yet as they became too full of God's goodness (aka, satiated) they "fell" into fleshy bodies. Only the soul of Jesus never fell, so he took on a body for our sakes to bring us back into contemplation of God. Despite the wacky primitive Christology, Origen's theory leaves open the problem that we may once again become satiated with God and re-fall. Although he answers such an objection, the idea that we could be satiated with God in the first place raised questions about divine infinity. Though Origen himself may have assumed that God was infinite, he did not think through the implications of this assumption.

Enter Gregory of Nyssa. First of all, Nyssen discarded Origen's idea of a pre-existent soul and the deficient Christology attached to this theory. But more importantly, Nyssen argued that because God is infinite, the human can never become satiated with his goodness. Rather, God is so unbounded that he will by nature remain interesting for eternity. Not only that, but we in our human finitude (which will never pass away even in the eschaton) will remain eternal interested in God. Eternal Life with God will mean dynamically exploring by our finite means of knowledge the infinite dynamic being of God. In other words, we will never get bored of God, because of the radical difference between his infinity and our finitude. Nyssen's term for this is epectasy: continual reaching. C. S. Lewis expresses this idea beautifully when he speaks of the children in New Narnia going "further up and further in" (Harper ed., 203f).

So the bottom line is that the end will not be boring. Actually, it will be eminently more interesting than life is now, for God fully revealed will give us an eternity's worth to think, feel and do.

6 comments:

Kevin K. Wright said...

Nyssa's remarks would seem to go well with our Wesleyan heritage. If I am not mistaken, Wesley taught also that even after glorification Christians could still "grow in grace" as much as a glorified body could do so. Once again, the infinitude of God matched up against our finitude becomes the deciding factor. However, the idea of further growth in grace post glorification seems to be an idea not so much trumpeted around the Wesleyan Church.

millinerd said...

A colloquial way to express the "growth in grace" (and praise)concept came from a professor (Dennis Okholm) who said in heaven he plans to master all the instruments of the Orchestra.

Similarly I was excited to master surfing - until I read this.

Marcia said...

Maybe there will be surfing on the River of Life! (Rev. 22:1) ;)

millinerd said...

Or the lake of fire?

Tony Myles said...

Imagine the strongest feeling from love you've ever experienced...

if you're married, think of your wedding day...

if you're single, think of that girl from 3rd grade you thought was all that and a bag of low-carb chips...


If God is love, and heaven is being the presence of God...

imagine that "feeling" from earlier... to the infinite degree.

And imagine experiencing that forever.

Todd Hiestand said...

dude. i just found your blog. welcome. hope you guys are well and we must meet again up in doylestown...