Wednesday, December 16, 2015

McKnight avoids pat answers to questions about heaven

A couple of years ago, several Christian authors started an eschatological fray with books about hell. Scot McKnight's newest book, The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About the Life to Come, puts forth a hope-filled side of the afterlife, with the premise that the Bible contains clear promises about heaven, such its existence: there's a "first heaven" and a "final heaven" (46), what it will be like:"a utopia of pleasures" (76), and who will be there: "Jesus and those who are in him" (157). 

Beyond those topics, he addresses dozens of questions about life in eternity, including where heaven will be, what we will be like, what we will be doing, whether all dogs go to heaven, whether near-death experiences prove heaven is for real, whether cremation is OK and a bunch of other things you may or may not have wondered.

The Heaven Promise will frustrate people seeking definite "GOD SAYS" answers and a vindication for their own views of heaven while simultaneously stimulating and relieving those who aren't in the game for pat answers. I'm kind of both those people and I found the author's combination of certitude and ambiguity both frustrating and refreshing. 

For example, a utopia of pleasures, as McKnight points out, looks different to everyone. If you ask Audio Adrenaline in the 90s, it looks like a big, big house with a big, big yard where we can play football. If you ask me, I don't want to have anything to do with football in eternity :) For some, heaven promises a well-deserved, eternal rest. Yet I can think of a number of highly industrious people for which an eternity of leisure would be punishment. 

One vision of heaven McKnight hopes and almost assumes is that we will still be in families and share eternity with our spouses. For those who've lost loved ones prematurely, this view is a balm. But would it be to someone who was abused by their spouse? Can we take McKnight's view to mean God will redeem even the ugliest of relationships and make them as they would have been if each partner were their truest, best, most Jesus-like version? And what about those who've remarried? Unlike the Sadducees trying to trick Jesus, I earnestly wonder "whose wife will she be?" Though he alludes to these questions, and many others, McKnight does not in fact answer all of them. I was glad for this. It seemed right, considering we see things as if through a mirror, dimly. 

McKnight's book kind of wrecked me for a few days after reading it. Not really because it shed some new light on heaven for me or because it firmly "grounds the imagination" about heaven, as one of the book's endorsers promised, but because it triggered my imagination to really go the distance in thinking about what a Jesus-looking utopia would be like. I think He's big enough to give us room for interpretation.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

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