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Pabst Blue Ribbon and Other Good Things I Plan on Enjoying in Heaven

July 12, AD 2013 18 Comments

This is a guest post by Greg Hurst, a MA Theology student at Providence College in Providence, RI. Follow him @gchurst.

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Christianity that is not entirely and altogether eschatology has entirely and altogether nothing to do with Christ. – Barth

Karl Barth wrote those words some 80 years ago, and judging by this criterion, I’m left wondering if the 21st century Catholicism I hear spoken of every day has anything to do with Christ.  For too long non-biblical language has plagued traditional thinking, writing, and preaching regarding salvation, heaven, and consequentially, the human person.  The “Kingdom of God” has become a synonym for “Heaven” – the “spiritual”, gaseous place you go when you die (if you’re lucky) – and the Cross and Resurrection have been watered down to simply mean “Jesus opened heaven for us”.  “Heaven” has become equated with “good”, and “earth” equated with “bad”.  Christians talk joyfully about the hope of “heaven” and “eternal life” as the ultimate fulfillment of all of man’s desires, while non-invested Modern Man watches on from the other side of the glass, careful not to tap on the window, severely doubting the idea of some disembodied “eternal life” awaiting us and greatly questioning whether he would even want to go there.

He realizes something is wrong with the Christian’s message.  There’s no way the expanding Cosmos worked so hard, for so long, just to produce self-aware beings that could one day die and escape this mess for eternal bliss.  More so, how in the world is it fair, or just, or great, for God to “reward” our suffering here in our bodies with some sort of disembodied, “spiritual” existence in Heaven?  No.  Nonsense.  Better to face the grim reality of decay and entropy: these carbon-based bodies simply die, and one day the universe will either collapse back in on itself or continue expanding fruitlessly into the cold abyss.  Escapism can’t be the answer.

And, well, he’s right.  The point of the Resurrection is not “we can go to heaven now”.  The Resurrection is the beginning of God’s new universe.  The sooner we get this right, the sooner we can enter into meaningful dialogue with those around us, offering a Hope worth living for.

“The Resurrection is a wondrous event which is not only absolutely unique in human history, but which lies at the very heart of the mystery of time.” – JPII, Dies Domini, 2.

A brief look at the New Testament offers a radically different hope than the one often preached.  The significance of the Resurrection in the New Testament is not that Jesus “died and rose so we can go to heaven when we die”, but rather God is going to do for us, and for the entire Cosmos, precisely what He did for Jesus; namely, Resurrection.  The Resurrection means, ultimately, that God’s New Creation has finally been launched.  The risen Jesus is the “first fruits” of this New Universe, and one day God is going to harvest the rest of His crop (us).  In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks of our current fleshly bodies being sown in the earth to one day be raised as “spiritual bodies” — meaning these very bodies will be animated by God’s Spirit, not “spiritual” in some non-physical, gaseous sense – and in Romans 8 he speaks of our redemption as simultaneously the redemption of Creation.  Combine these verses with the “New Heavens and New Earth” of the book of Revelation, mix in 2000 years of theological reflection and scientific progress, and you get this Eschatological take from the CCC:

1042: At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:

The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.

1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.” It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”

1044 In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

In other words, Jesus is going to be bringing Heaven with Him.  The Resurrection launched the beginning of God’s New Creation, but in the end, Heaven will come in full.  “Knowledge of the Lord” will cover the cosmos like “waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).  Scripture uses an analogy for what will occur between Heaven and the Universe: marriage.

van eyck adoration of the lambs-resized-600

“The Resurrection of Jesus is the seminal event from which the New Creation has already begun to grow.” – John Polkinghorne

The pattern for this great act of Resurrection is the Resurrection of Jesus.  The Risen, glorified Jesus appears in the Gospels in varying scenarios, but there is one strand that runs though all of the accounts: the disciples fail to recognize Him at first, only to come to realize that it is indeed Jesus after some act of His.  He is clearly different, but also clearly still Himself.  He passes through walls and appears at will, but also eats with them and allows them to touch His wounds.

So it will be with us.  We will receive transformed, glorified bodies.  I will still be Greg, but Glorified Greg.  More shockingly (grab your hats), so will it be with the universe.  Matter, space, and time are the form for this current cosmos, and we ought to expect some form of these three in the “world to come” that we profess hope in each Sunday (though the third part of that triad is admittedly contestable).  We will live in a new world, after all.

In this new universe, God will have his dwelling among men. It’s going to be a glorified party (the Wedding Feast of the Lamb is not a Baptist wedding).  There will be glorified adventure to be had.  My friends (God-willing) will be gloriously there.  I’m going to drink glorified PBR.  I’m going to go glorified whitewater rafting down the glorified rivers of Maine.  Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away (I’m definitely getting carried away) — The point is, as author/physicist/theologian/Anglican priest John Polkinghorne reiterates: nothing good is lost in the Lord.  Polkinghorne recounts a particularly poignant story: When asked what he would do if he was told the world would end tomorrow, Martin Luther replied, “I’d plant a tree.”  Bingo.  Nothing good is lost in the Lord.

Such is the grandeur of Christian hope.  Rather than allowing the expanding universe to collapse back in on itself or ceaselessly expand into desperate nothingness, the Resurrection tells us that God has given a definitive Yes to His good Creation.  In a divine act of Resurrection, all things will be made glorified, and man will live forever in this new universe.  This is Heaven. This is Christian Hope. The challenge for us 21st Century evangelically minded Catholics (Hey, Weigel) is, I think, to recover this language of Resurrection and New Creation.  We ought to be joyfully inviting others to be challenged by the Resurrection: Why live your life running from pleasure to pleasure or giving the finger to the expanding cosmos in despair when the hope of the Resurrection is knocking on your door?

A preoccupation with the “Four Last Things” handed on to us from the Medieval era has minimalized the importance of Resurrection, making it, at best, a strange bonus add-on to “Heaven”.  This isn’t Biblical, and especially since Vatican II, it isn’t Church teaching either.  Yes, we believe that when one dies their soul goes to be with God and they behold the Beatific Vision while they await their resurrected bodies, and yes, we can refer to this as “Heaven”.  But if we speak as though this is the goal of Christian life, we are literally castrating the Gospel: we are robbing the Resurrection of its potency.

One last point; God has redeemed us entirely, as persons.  The Resurrection tells me that God loves me so much, as Greg, that He desires to be with me in all of my awkward Arabic hairiness, receding hairline and all (although I expect that to be corrected in my future glorified awesomeness).  He  didn’t merely “save my soul” – body/soul dualism is blatantly rejected by Scripture – He saved me.  This also means that what we do in the body matters: this is why Theology of the Body (and the 1st Letter to the Corinthians) exists.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The practical impact of the Resurrection on Christian living is the topic of my next post.

This post is a guest post written by Greg Hurst.  Greg is a MA Theology student at Providence College in Providence, RI.
Follow him @gchurst.

Interested in learning more?
CCC 988-1019, 1042-1050
International Theological Commission: Communion and Stewardship
N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope
John Polkinghorne’s The God of Hope and the End of the World
JPII Dies Domini 2

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  • Phil Dzialo

    In Introduction to Christianity, Ratzinger explicitly denies the resurrection of the body. ‘It now becomes clear that the real heart of faith in the resurrection does not consist at all in the idea of the restoration of bodies, to which we have reduced it in our thinking; such is the case even though this is the pictorial image used throughout the Bible’. He says that the word body, or flesh, in the phrase, the resurrection of the body, ‘in effect means “the world of man” . . . [it is] not meant in the sense of a corporality isolated from the soul’ (pp 240-41).

    I read nothing from Pope Benedict 16 that gives any credence to our receiving new glorified, transformed bodies…I would rethink the premise of your post in the light of Ratzinger’s dogmatic theology.

    • Goo

      If you interpret that passage from Ratzinger to mean “we don’t receive glorified bodies in the resurrection”, you would have to throw away half of the NT, the entire Chapter on the resurrection of the Body from the CCC, and the only chapter on Eschatology from Vatican II (cited above).

      The resurrection is *not* a restoration of bodies, but an act of new creation launched from within the old.

      • Goo

        I would recommend you Ratzinger’s “Death and Eternal Life”, published in the seventies. He goes into greater depth there on his beliefs regarding the “intermediary state” before resurrection and what the resurrection itself entails.

        i appreciate your feedback, greatly. thank you.

  • TomD

    “For too long non-biblical language has plagued traditional thinking, writing, and preaching regarding salvation, heaven, and consequentially, the human person.”

    In so many ways, and primarily as a consequence of the modernist perspective, human-centered philosophy has replaced biblically-centered theology as the basis for what we think, write and preach with regards to our faith. This has had tragic consequences.

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  • chionactis

    I think the less the laity is involved, the more reverent the people will be. It’s going to take years for this to happen, but think about it.

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  • Josh

    Very good. I find some forms Gnosticism creeping back into some Christian’s thinking, that this world is evil, God forgave us, so let’s sin through forgiveness and just get to heaven.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Great post. Too bad the title ruined it for me, but that might be because as a beer snob, I refuse to drink that lightly colored water. If you’re going to feed me liquid bread, give me something I can’t see through.

  • flankus7

    Dear Ignoramus,
    Too bad you don’t know what you are talking about. When our tradition uses the term “heaven” it is including in this idea the new heavens and the new earth. Just read a pre-Vatican II book on heaven and you will see. Duh.

    • Goo

      dear anonymous guest,

      it brings me great joy to hear that this is old news to you. it is the experience of me and my peers, that this is a topic rarely and poorly spoken of.

      thanks for reading.

  • Clare Krishan

    Love your illustrating point with the Van Eyck Ghent “Retable de Agneau mystique” altarpiece – its on the cover of my favorite book parsing the time-mystery of the Eucharist Stephen Clarke’s “Catholics and the Eucharist: a scriptural introduction” http://books.google.com/books/about/Catholics_and_the_Eucharist.html?id=Zs4GAAAACAAJ

    FYI – there’s much more to study for those discerning universals on the meme: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece Adam and Eve on the side triptych wings (ie separated from sacramental grace, as it were exiled from celebrating the central Liturgical mysteries with Cain first born depicted above his human father reserving a fraction of his harvest behind his back in idolatry of the material realm) while above his mother, Abel sacrifices first of his flock in humble veneration of the spiritual realm modelling theological type of the Forerunner below, witness to and precursor mimic of the Incarnate in the sacrifice of the altar prominent at right while Mary, preeminent witness bridging inclusion for Adam/Cain separated by sin as is the human family descended from them, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; angelic hosts filling the remaining field. IMHO such a folding retablo is more solidly catechetical than the most vaulted stained glass windows. Reproduced as folding board books for toddlers to play with they’d make a fun addition to the book basket at the back of the sanctuary or in the cry room where young parents may dip in and explicate the liturgy for their restless offspring. Mary’s elaborate crown of pearls evokes the Old Covenant feminine typology of Lady Wisdom venerated in psalmody while the papal tiara takes its cues from the Monarchical headgear and regalia of the Godhead enthroned in Majesty (or vice versa I suppose, the pope is prophet priest and prince in persona christi) with the Holy Spirit communing presence symolized as Dove in centre field. Since we remain members of the mystical body even when we’ve left the altar, we would do well to remark to ourselves that the memory and identity of such symbolism can be retained in our mind’s eye as aid to living it in our hearts, prompted by the strophes of the Anima Christi prayer (the “lave me” calling to mind perhaps the water contained in the baptismal font of mercy and the human body’s need for life-giving liquids equated with our soul’s thirst for infused grace in a daily replenishment of prayer, frequent works of charity and a disposition of detachment to immediate activities on the periphery so to focus on inner peace).

  • Brother Juniper

    I imagine Pabst Blue Ribbon, Budweiser, and other undrinkables will only be available in Hell. You’ll just have to settle for an Urquell or Fuller’s ESB.

    • James

      I am certain Budweiser is served in hell—warm and skunky.

  • Tim Glemkowski

    Hiya Greg. I find that the cultural milieu gets 2 major things wrong about Heaven. The first you’ve focused on in your post above: the disembodied, Platonic notions of Heaven. The second is the individualistic notions of salvation and Heaven. It is as a Church that we will be saved. I love NT Wright’s reflections on Paul’s use of the phrase “justification.” As a Shammite Pharisee, Paul’s interest in faith as justifying was concurrent with how the Jews understood circumcision. It alone wasn’t a salvific act but was a sacred sign of inclusion in the people of God. So justification for Paul was membership in the Church. As a Church, we will be saved. I think that this communal notion of Heaven is often undervalued in theological parlance as well. I hate to go there, but it could be some of the Protestant influence which has led to a loss of DeLubac does a great job of recovering these notions from Paul and the Fathers in his work Catholicism.

    Keep up the good work, pal. You’re a snow-covered prophet.

  • ZuzanaM

    I read this post yesterday when I opened the New Advent E-mail with their list of all things Catholic posts. Then, as my guardian angel is given to do when I pray the Office of Readings in the middle of the night, I turned to the Non-Biblical reading by Maximus the Confessor (p. 1971 in the one volume Christian Prayer). This letter by the 7th century Eastern monk and Theologian, spoke directly to the topic of the ‘Pabst’ post. I quote: “God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness. It was precisely to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and did, and suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father, when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled. … He also taught us in many different ways that we should wish to imitate him by our own kindness and genuine love for one another. … the purpose of his coming was to reclaim the royal image. “”

    I think that nothing more need be said, at least not in my own feeble words.

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