Friday, June 02, 2006

Will Newtown be in Heaven?

I heard a great issues paper today from Evan McFarlane called 'Will Newtown be in Heaven?'* His answer, roughly speaking, was 'of course not - because heaven is not the eschatological goal. But Newtown will (in some form) be radically renewed in the eschaton, along with the rest of God's creation.'

This conclusion, though familiar to some, is for many others still something of a shock. The belief in 'heaven when you die' as the Christian hope runs deep and dies hard. I was leading a Bible study discussion recently on the Christian hope based on 1 Corinthians 15 and the idea of something awaiting us other than flight to an otherworldly bliss seemed novel to the entire group (hi guys if you're reading this!). I was asked what I called my newfangled theological position. I could think of no other name than 'the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come'.

The worst culprits on this matter are generally our songs. One of my favourites has this clanger:
When from the dust of death I arise
To claim my home beyond the skies...

Simply substituting beneath for beyond would be sufficient. At least this song has a resurrection (from the dust of death I arise), which puts it streets ahead of so many others in which death is simply the doorway to a heavenly bliss beyond.
* Newtown is a suburb of Sydney and was the location for the delivery of Evan's paper.

19 comments:

David Ould said...

hey Byron,

I always like to refer to "The New Creation".

Dave Barrie said...

If Newtown is part of the new Earth will it be the Newtown of 2006?

Or the Newtown of the early 19th Century? (when it first became the home of European settlers)

Or the Newtown of 20 000 BC? (when it was first occupied by Aboriginal tribes)

Or the Newtown of 180 000 000 BC? (when Australia first broke away from the super continent Gondwana)

Or the Newtown of AD 3006? (when the military super power, New Zealand, has destroyed Sydney with an anti-matter bomb the size of a frozen pea)

Or some weird amalgamation of them all?

Dave Barrie said...

Or the Newtown of AD 4006? (when the military super power, Google, has relocated the entire population of Newtown to planet Microsoft (formerly know as Mars)).

...and you thought Google Earth was just a clever name!

Rory Shiner said...

I credit Oliver ODonovan for knocking out of my head the idea Christians believe you go to heaven when you die. Glad to get rid of it.

michael jensen said...

Now, the really important question is:

will Moore College be in Newtown in heaven?

I think so...

byron said...

You mean MTC misses out on being on the renewed earth?

(or Mars, apparently...)

Drew said...

Byron, what do you make of the first/second resurrection stuff in Revelation?

Dave Barrie said...

On the whole Mars issue, do you think the entire universe will be renewed or just Heaven and Earth?

If the sun is not renewed then it only has about 5 billion years left which may mean that the new Jerusalem will have to be relocated at some point. I guess even a renewed sun may still have a limited life span, which would mean we have to move to a new solar system at some point anyway.

Any thoughts?

byron said...

Dave, yes, this is the problem with C. S. Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy, in which he plays with the idea of only earth as having fallen, but life on other planets in the solar system remaining without evil. The second law of thermodynamics means the death of the universe. Surely liberation from bondage to decay (Rom 8.18ff) is an overthrow of entropy?

Drew, I assume you're referring to Rev 20.5-6, which is the classic (and only) millennium passage, which has spawned pre-, post-, a-, and pan-millennialisms (the latter is the belief that it will all pan out in the end). This is a topic worthy of multiple future posts. I think I tend towards amillennialism, but understand that Moltmann is firmly premil (clearly without being in any sense a Left Behind fan of apocalyptic destruction and world-denying ressentiment). I confess I've never really understood what pushes him towards this. He's had a few exchanges with Richard Bauckham (his primary English interpreter) on this in which Bauckham has suggested that premillennialism doesn't fit his other claims, but Moltmann is insistant that it is crucial. If this is all Greek to you, let me know. Otherwise, wait and pray while I get around to writing on the millennium... (when everything will become magically clear and simple, of course).

byron said...

David Ould - yes, 'new creation' or 'renewed creation' or 'the eschaton' (or perhaps 'the new beginning' as Moltmann points out), or 'the age to come', or 'eternal life' (understood as 'the life of the coming aeon' rather than timeless eternity - see my continuing (though recently neglected series on time and eternity and here)), or 'God's coming future', or 'the resurrection of the dead', or 'our hope', or 'the liberation of creation' (Rom 8.18ff.), or 'the home of righteousness' (2 Peter 3), or 'the marriage of heaven and earth' (Rev 21), or 'the renewal of all things' (Matt 19.28), or 'the time of universal restoration' (Acts 3.21), or 'when God makes all things new' (Rev 21.5). Any more?

byron said...

Rory, O'Donovan's head-kicking came too late for me. I was already convinced by Nietzche. :-)

...Or rather, re-reading the New Testament after reading Nietzsche.

byron said...

Oh, and back to Dave Barrie's original question of which Newtown: Moltmann would certainly say 'all of the above', including the Newtowns that might have been but were aborted or missed or voted out by greedy councils. He develops the concept of 'redeemed time' or 'the fullness of time', as I discussed back here. I hope to get to talking about time and relating to God, which Matheson has been urging me to do since I started this series...

Geoff said...

The reformational theologians (Kuyper, Bavinck [cf. recently translated Reformed Dogmatics, The Last Things, Our Reasonable Faith], S.G. de Graf, Promise and Deliverance, Walsh & Middleton, The Transforming Vision, etc.] and philosophers such Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven, Popma, Zuidema, Runner, Al Wolters (Creation Regained), Mouw (When the Kings Come Marching In), Seerveld have long argued the the Scriptures teach the "renewal of all things" into a (re-)new(-ed) heavens and (re-)new(-ed)earth.

Drew said...

Yes, with you there... looking forward to the millenial posts :)

tim foster said...

Not only are our old hymns to blame for your bible study group's confusion, but also the numerous gospel outlines that use the language of 'going to heaven when you die'. We juxtupose heaven and hell, when the biblical vision is for the unification of heaven and earth.

michael jensen said...

Tim: but you mean one gospel outline especially, now, don't you?

;-)

John Dekker said...

The question is a silly one.

Newtown is Heaven.

Matt Lemieux said...

Evan's language reminds me of another C.S. Lewis work The Last Battle in which the door to Narnia is closed after the kids walk through it. Yet, they find something familiar about the new place that they are (Aslan's Country). It has Narnia and England(!) in it, but they aren't really nor just Narnia or England.

In answer to Dave Barrie's comment, wouldn't "heaven" contain the essence of what Newtown is?

byron said...

Matt, I assume by "heaven" you mean the new creation?

I still think Dave's question is an interesting one: the essence of which Newtown? Must essences (if we grant that concept - I'm not sure it's always a good move) be immutable? Part of what Newtown is is found in its changing history.