May 20, 2013

"The church eventually stopped talking about heaven..."

"... for a variety of reasons: the rise of science; the emergence of the Social Gospel, a theology that encouraged churches to create heaven on Earth by fighting for social justice; and the growing affluence of Americans."

76 comments:

Brennan said...

Hipster religion hasn't quite yet caught on in the Roman Catholic Church. We're still talking about Heaven once a week.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

What Brennan said.

rhhardin said...

Nothing ever happens in heaven.

edutcher said...

This, of course, is when people stopped going to church.

gerry said...

We're still talking about Heaven once a week.

And hell, its opposite, of course, and, above all, how to avoid going there.

CEO-MMP said...

Like NPR shouldn't try to get into the anthropology business, CNN should stay well away from religion.

Firehand said...

And every time someone decides they can create heaven on earth, they don't.
They generally do a fine job of recreating hell, though.

Renee said...

"(After all, who needs heaven when you have a flat-screen TV, a smartphone and endless diversions?)"

We just don't have to think in general...

Darrell said...

...infiltration by Leftists hoping to destroy from within. . .

SJ said...

To quote an old Negro Spiritual:

"Heaven: Evry'body talking about
Heaven ain't goin' there..."

Near-death experiences as evidence of afterlife?

Seems interesting, but not proof. (Proof is related to the notion of testing an idea until it is shown to be solid/usable/trustworthy. It's rather hard to test someone else's experiences on the fringe of death.)

To spring off of what @Brennan said: talking about the afterlife is not synonymous with talking about Heaven. Jesus, in the Gospels, often talked about another possibility in the afterlife. A possibility that is described as a second death; a separation from the beauty and joy that is in the presence of God.

If a person does not talk about this possibility, they are forgetting why Heaven is so important.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Heaven is one of those non-truths more socially valuable than real-truth that Althouse has been alluding to of late.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Ancient texts are chock-full of accounts from people who gave grandiose explanations for weird stuff they experienced.

SJ said...

...and when I skim through the rest of CNN's article, they mention Rob Bell.

Somehow, they insist that he was talking too much about Heaven, and that led to his ostracism from evangelical circles.

Nope.

He disagreed with Jesus about the possibility of Hell.

(He also disagreed with Apostles Peter, Paul, John, and other authors of New Testament books...and with the Creeds of the historical church, the teachings of both Catholic and Protestant teachers...)

dreams said...

Create heaven on earth, I though Obama was going to do that, I heard him say in the 2008 election campaign that if we just believe in hope and elected him we could have heaven on earth.

traditionalguy said...

By definition Heaven is the Holy place where God lives.

By definition the Judeo-Christian God is love and light that speaks to us as highly favored people that please Him.

So persons that experience love and light that speaks to them are in the presence of some God.

The Church has a job now. It is to be a witness to the love and light incarnated in Jesus The Messiah who spoke many things, some of which were written down as the spirit of Holiness moved upon men.

Our problem is in creating clear communications of that written word and not replace them with counterfeits or filibuster so that men hearing the words of the Gospel can be changed into fearless men of faith that can act in love for people in need, like me. That turns into a standard of the proof is in the pudding of what a church is producing.

Quite frankly, I don't want a weak and helpless sell out Church that claims to love, love , love me while it works to create a hierarchy that plans to enslave me with guilt, slanders me for no reason at all, and then runs away when I need any help.

The getting to heaven part is easy.

m stone said...

There is not much need to talk about heaven when entry into eternal life with God is determined in the here and now. What we do on earth is what counts.

Æthelflæd said...

That started out as a somewhat interesting article, but it quickly lost me as it turned into the Rob Bell Show.

gerry said...

Jesus is the Gate. A narrow gate, and the only way to gain salvation (heaven). He said these things.

He wants all persons to be saved, so who knows what efforts may be made to save an individual when there are still short seconds left in the life in which a choice must be made?

Peter said...

Christian churches are wise to maintain some distance between themselves and these various near-death experiences of heaven.

First, much of this feels all too familiar- it feels like the occult/sceance business that flourished toward the end of the 19th century. This business drew an assortment of exploitative frauds who used it for financial gain.

And this near-death stuff seems not all that different.

Second, most Protestant churches claim scripture to be authoritative, and the more successful ones (the ones with stable or increasing membership) remain grounded in this.

So, whatever the commercial possibilities in these near-death tales, I think churches are wise to steer well clear of them- as in, don't condemn them as necesarrily false, but don't endorse them or use them for evangelizing either.

Dave D said...

Tranditionalguy:

The only guilt my church afflicts me with is the guilt of not being with my fellow church members more for fellowship. I've been to LOTS of churches in my 53 years and never been slandered. I have no idea what "church" you are talking about?

I agree with (most of) the rest of your post.

SGT Ted said...

"Social Justice", as applied to a nation governed by the rule of law, is a self cancelling phrase that is simply shorthand for "mob rule".

It is a Marxoid, Liberation Theology inspired term designed to pervert voluntary charity and good works done by individual citizens into a call for Government to collectivize it and make it mandatory by using tax laws to extract a tithe to spend on others.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I know pretty well a guy in his mid-sixties who had one of these near-death experiences. Heart attack and resuscitation.

He's always been a regular church-goer (Roman Catholic) and he firmly believes he glimpsed heaven.

The thing of it is, he's still quite fearful of death, even though he's lived an exemplary life, so far as I can tell.

There's nothing so remarkable about fearing death. It's a human instinct, after all.

I remember the old Fat Albert Show. Bill Cosby would pass on a little sage advice with every episode.

I remember one in particular: "Anybody who doesn't know the meaning of the word 'fear' probably doesn't know the meaning of too many other words, either."

Æthelflæd said...

Peter said...." Second, most Protestant churches claim scripture to be authoritative, and the more successful ones (the ones with stable or increasing membership) remain grounded in this.

So, whatever the commercial possibilities in these near-death tales, I think churches are wise to steer well clear of them- as in, don't condemn them as necesarrily false, but don't endorse them or use them for evangelizing either."

Wise words.

sinz52 said...

Many of the patients who report near-death experiences aren't Christians. In fact, such experiences are reported worldwide. And AFAIK, nobody ever reports having seen Hell. It's always Heaven they see.

Of course Christian pastors are going to avoid that topic. It implies universalism: Jews, Muslims, Hindus can go to Heaven too. In fact, it starts to look like Saint Peter is pretty non-judgmental about whom he lets through the Pearly Gates.

traditionalguy said...

@Dave D...Your church passed the test which is a Good Samaritan parable's level of love as faith in action.

But the article that is linked describes churches that find faith words offensive to some members who would rather not hear them. Taking that easy way out leads to the other things I mentioned.

Smilin' Jack said...

""The church eventually stopped talking about heaven for a variety of reasons: blah, blah blah....

Modern churches talk a load of mushy crap. What they need to talk about is Hell. Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, now that's religion.

bagoh20 said...

Most people upon entering heaven immediately start trying to remodel things.

Paddy O said...

The Bible talks a lot about other stuff more than heaven or hell. I think there's a reactionary move at work in contemporary generations that moved away from the heaven or hell binary, which made religion only about which side you're going to be on, which place the train is going to take you after death.

Heaven really is a declaration of hope that 1) this experience of life is not the whole story and 2) that there is ultimate justice.

That's why these weren't used in the same way they're often used now, they were messages given to people who were under very real and present oppression.

When it became a way for the already powerful to oppress or treat different people as the Other, it moved away from both Jesus' method and model. Jesus, after all, didn't confront the clearly sinful with threats of hellfire, he offered them the hope of life. Hellfire, curiously enough, was often discussed instead when he was talking to the religiously prideful and oppressive wealthy.

When the Church began to give hope to the culturally successful and threatened the outsiders, it lost its moorings.

Heaven language also got caught up in a very strong, and pervasive, dualism, which emphasized the soul over and against the boy, the ethereal over against the material. But, that's missing the mark in a huge way as well. Scripture talks about bodily resurrection and physicalized salvation. It's not just a heaven, but a new heaven and new earth. All is re-created.

Talking about heaven is also a fair bit like talking about the color red to someone who is blind. You can describe it to a point, but words really are inadequate to describe realities that are beyond our present sensory knowledge or memory.

Methadras said...

In essence, the church is being dragged down by the poor. Their giant sucking continues. In one failure of the church, it has been dealing with the poor in a meaningful way. It's only gotten worse and they haven't succeeded.

ricpic said...

The elites have jettisoned what they call superstition (heaven, hell, all that outdated stuff) and believe they can carry on just fine without it. For a while that's true. In the same way that socialism does just fine until it eats its way through capitalism's surplus, so secularists are protected by the constraints of the religious until the religious dwindle in numbers. Then it's katy bar the door time against every impulse in men that had previously been kept in check by so-called superstition. As we're finding out right here right now.

hombre said...

"The church eventually stopped talking about heaven."

That would only be the liberal denominational churches with their effete, relativistic faith - a distinction worth making, but outside the ken of our news media and other progressives.

hombre said...

@Methadras: what does your post at 10:32 mean?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Is there is correlation with "stopping talking about heaven", and declining church-going numbers?

If there is, maybe a hypothesis could be proposed to also test if causation exists.

I've always thought that the big "pull" of religions that promise a heaven, e.g. Christianity, do so because they have accidentally hit upon a core human instinct that is directly responsible of the religion's popularity.

The human Ego desires, more than anything, to believe it does not ever end.

A religion that taps into that, with the added 'assurance' of a central story that its deity, Jesus, has already conquered death, demonstrating that it CAN be done, would be quite tempting.

If so, de-emphasizing that feature might not be such a good idea for membership recruitment and retention numbers.

phx said...

A religion that taps into that, with the added 'assurance' of a central story that its deity, Jesus, has already conquered death, demonstrating that it CAN be done, would be quite tempting.

Trouble is making that believable in our age is getting tougher.

Please note I'm not saying I do or don't believe it. I'm just sayin'.

Blair said...

After 30 years of being Protestant, I became Orthodox at the start of this year. Stuff like this article only serves to confirm I've made the right decision.

By the way, Orthodoxy teaches that anybody outside the Church can receive God's grace, so could there be Hindus and Muslims in heaven? Absolutely.

traditionalguy said...

The writer has two punches against Reformed Christianity: The first is that a near death memory confirms that unbeliever get into heaven too. That's great to hear.

The second is that pan-loveism eliminates any need for belief in Jesus. Just love everyone by inbred goodness and stop, as if that ever happens.

Good try, but the Gospel stands on its own claims. Don't leave life without them.

shirley elizabeth said...

The article never says what church it's referring to when it says "the church", which to me says it's just straw. Also the author likes to link that odious, hateful, exclusionary idea that only righteous get into heaven with conservative Christians (who, of course, just want to feel good about themselves) instead of correctly identifying it as a doctrine that is different from sect to sect.

Also, the thought of people claiming not to believe in God and heaven yet still wanting those that do to admit they're accepted regardless makes me chuckle.

n.n said...

It's an article of faith. It is science practiced outside of a limited frame of reference. Why are people so concerned about what may or may not happen in their post-mortem? At that time, they will no longer worry about pregnancy, or child support, or AIDS.

Judge the religion by the principles it engenders. Does it recognize individual dignity? Does it promote the valuation of human life? Does it advance evolutionary fitness?

Methadras said...

hombre said...

@Methadras: what does your post at 10:32 mean?


The poor in this world are a big problem. They always have been. The church has spent untold wealth to try and alleviate that poverty to no avail. They are dragging the church down. They are dragging governments down. The concept of compassion as a function of religious or government largess and redistribution is a failure and no one wants to recognize that because the realization it to catastrophic to understand, so the cycle continues. Head in the sand kind of stuff.

I gave up on the poor long ago. The poor as an aggregate has zero desire to no longer be so. They would rather drag the rest of us down with them and they have government backing to boot. The vast majority of nations in this world are poor. This is a device of their own choosing. They poor are culturally stunted. They have very little regard for their places in life and continue to be present in abject poverty.

I think it's high time that the church stop promoting the poor to continue being poor.

Methadras said...

Blair said...

After 30 years of being Protestant, I became Orthodox at the start of this year. Stuff like this article only serves to confirm I've made the right decision.

By the way, Orthodoxy teaches that anybody outside the Church can receive God's grace, so could there be Hindus and Muslims in heaven? Absolutely.


Christ was quite specific about the requirements into heaven. The belief of him and only through him can you have everlasting life. A simple yet monumental requirement for many.

Mike said...

"The poor will always be with us."

But they may not, in fact, be the same "poor" who you helped last time they needed a hand. While The Poor are always with "us" the membership in that group is quite fluid. Mostly, members get out by upward mobility or generational achievement.

Michael Haz said...

Heaven used to be a mystery, a place glimpsed only by mystics and prophets.

Heaven is not a place; it is a state of being a person's soul can attain if that person lived in God's grace, sought forgiveness of sin and undertook penance and good works.

Traditional Catholic churches have not lost this message. Many Protestant (and some liberal Catholic) pastors, however, fear that teaching about heaven and hell will drive parishoners away.

Secularism teaches that most anything is okay, and if you are pretty nice, your soul will float away to heaven. Not a particularly safe bet to make.

We were given free will. We choose to follow the rules and laws set forth millenia ago, or not. Either way, their will be a consequence.

Chip S. said...

Let's face it. Talking about heaven is kind of boring. Well, except for Islam.

Hellfire and damnation is where you find real dramatic value.

rhhardin said...

There used to be a fire and brimstone preacher on the radio each night whose every story was about women in pants and their asses, and how a hapless man, distracted, was run over by a truck at the very instant of being in a state of sin.

The disaster varied from night to night but not the primary obsession.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Michael Haz said...

>> Heaven used to be a mystery, a place glimpsed only by mystics and prophets.

Heaven is not a place; it is a state of being a person's soul can attain if that person lived in God's grace, sought forgiveness of sin and undertook penance and good works.


Evidence, please. Thanks!

Alex said...

Aren't Apple Stores heaven on earth?

Chip S. said...

Evidence, please. Thanks!

Isn't it sufficient that it be true for him?

Smilin' Jack said...

Judge the religion by the principles it engenders. Does it recognize individual dignity? Does it promote the valuation of human life? Does it advance evolutionary fitness?

Well, Pius XII did have a soft spot for Hitler, but eugenics seems to be in disfavor with most religions today.

Anyway, the most important criterion should be, "Will it keep me from burning for all eternity in a lake of fire?"

William Chadwick said...

The Social Gospel: religion + collectivist ideology + "liberal" voodoo economics. The Superstition Trifecta.

William Chadwick said...

The Social Gospel: religion + collectivist ideology + "liberal" voodoo economics. The Superstition Trifecta.

Mitch H. said...

Only sect mentioned in the article is Episcopalian, on a quick skim. What, is there only one "church" in the writer's world? The "Social Gospel" call-out seems dispositive. Is Bell that former Evangelical who decided Hell was just too damn unfair and went full-bore heretical?

phx said...

The poor in this world are a big problem. They always have been. The church has spent untold wealth to try and alleviate that poverty to no avail. They are dragging the church down. They are dragging governments down. The concept of compassion as a function of religious or government largess and redistribution is a failure and no one wants to recognize that because the realization it to catastrophic to understand, so the cycle continues. Head in the sand kind of stuff.

I gave up on the poor long ago. The poor as an aggregate has zero desire to no longer be so. They would rather drag the rest of us down with them and they have government backing to boot. The vast majority of nations in this world are poor. This is a device of their own choosing. They poor are culturally stunted. They have very little regard for their places in life and continue to be present in abject poverty.

I think it's high time that the church stop promoting the poor to continue being poor.


You saw it here on Althouse.

phx said...

Must be a Moby.

The Godfather said...

I believe in an after-life, but I've been very interested to observe that a lot of faithful Christians don't really care about that. They are satisfied that the joy and comfort that they receive from Christ in this life is enough for them.

phx said...

As I recall from the Buddhist perspective someone once asked the great Zen patriarch Dogen Zenji what happens after we die.

His answer was "Does not even a skull proclaim the truth?"

Maybe someone can correct me on that.

Methadras said...

phx said...

You saw it here on Althouse.


This isn't the first time I've made this assertion here at Althouse. Maybe this is the first time you are seeing it. However, there are a lot of people that think the way I do about the poor and what a giant money sink they are and have been. The poor delivery almost zero ROI on the amount of trillions in the US we've poured to them. Unless you are a democrat that pilfers the treasure of the productive to redistribute to your perpetual poor that will always put you back into office to lavish them with the little pittances they have made you believe requires little to no effort on your or their parts.

This is nothing new and frankly I'm voicing what millions of other Americans think, but simply do not dare to voice because of the fear of being cowed and labeled haters. That transparent bullshit doesn't work on me.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Methadras said...

phx said...

You saw it here on Althouse.


This isn't the first time I've made this assertion here at Althouse. Maybe this is the first time you are seeing it. However, there are a lot of people that think the way I do about the poor and what a giant money sink they are and have been. The poor delivery almost zero ROI on the amount of trillions in the US we've poured to them. Unless you are a democrat that pilfers the treasure of the productive to redistribute to your perpetual poor that will always put you back into office to lavish them with the little pittances they have made you believe requires little to no effort on your or their parts.

This is nothing new and frankly I'm voicing what millions of other Americans think, but simply do not dare to voice because of the fear of being cowed and labeled haters. That transparent bullshit doesn't work on me.

phx said...

This is nothing new and frankly I'm voicing what millions of other Americans think, but simply do not dare to voice because of the fear of being cowed and labeled haters. That transparent bullshit doesn't work on me.

Fabulous. Speak as loud as you want. I hope the other cowards join you.

Repeat, rinse and lather. Your Republican nit problem will be gone by 2016.

phx said...

Now you see who's wagging Romney with his 47% takers bullshit. The sick, the oppressive, the old thinkers, they control the levers of the right these days, and the moderate Republicans damn well know it.

You guys should figure out how to fix this. GOP is so crippled the Dems will have to help them out.

phx said...

They'll fix it for you Republicans.

Methadras said...

phx said...

This is nothing new and frankly I'm voicing what millions of other Americans think, but simply do not dare to voice because of the fear of being cowed and labeled haters. That transparent bullshit doesn't work on me.

Fabulous. Speak as loud as you want. I hope the other cowards join you.

Repeat, rinse and lather. Your Republican nit problem will be gone by 2016.


Hmm, seems I hit a little nerve ending here. I haven't seen you this animated in a long long time. The only cowardice here is your idea that cowering to the poor is the only way democrats can win. Throw massive amounts of money their way for the votes so you scumbag cadre and ideology can reign supreme. This is further proof that your ideology sucks giant goat balls. You don't care about this country, you only care that your side acquires power to punish those that make to give to those that don't so the cycle can continue. You would rather this country commit national suicide on the altar of the poor so you can keep on saying, "We will win into infinity..."

Your truths by omission speaks volumes here.

Methadras said...

phx said...

Now you see who's wagging Romney with his 47% takers bullshit. The sick, the oppressive, the old thinkers, they control the levers of the right these days, and the moderate Republicans damn well know it.

You guys should figure out how to fix this. GOP is so crippled the Dems will have to help them out.


Romney wasn't wrong, you vacuous scumbag. He was just wrong to voice it to anyone only because he was seeking higher office. I'm not.

David R. Graham said...

"It is a Marxoid, Liberation Theology inspired term designed to pervert voluntary charity and good works done by individual citizens into a call for Government to collectivize it and make it mandatory by using tax laws to extract a tithe to spend on others."

Yes, and the first clause of the first amendment forbids that - establishment of a state religion - and guarantees its antidote - freedom of religion.

Leftists are right to hate freedom of religion. It disallows their absolutist impulses.

Most of these comments are trivial. Many seem to have been made apart from reading the article through. The article, looked at theology-professionally, is really quite good in the sense of accurate on the numerous matters it covers.

The commentators allergic to the article and its subject reject direct, unmediated experience, and assume only empirical, mediated experience is realistic. Typical attitude of the age. Borrrrring.

Michael Haz said...

Evidence, please. Thanks!

Faith.

Prove me wrong. Show me your evidence, please.

SOJO said...

@sins52

Yeah, some NDEs report hell. This guy below was so moved by his experience that he went from Atheist/Realist to Minister. His description of "heaven" is also more interesting than most.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_GmifF8Fkc

I've found NDEs interesting since I was 9 years old. Probably the most interesting recent one was Anita Moorjani who had gone to the hospital in a coma to die w/ 36 hours of stage 4B lymphoma and came back and was cancer free in a month. And still is. (Google or youtube, it's all over the place.) OTOH, she had no "Heaven" experience per se.

Death is the front lines. I've only been at one person's bedside as they were dying and it took a lot out of me. I know someone who works in hospice, and she said that what she witnessed countless times (a 'lifting out' at point of death ) confirmed her faith, rather than denied it, that was the only reason she could continue to do it when others couldn't.

phx said...

@SOJO wow.

SOJO said...

@Methadras

I'm with phx. Your attitude and words are disgusting.

They aren't "the poor" they are human beings, our fellows, for god sake, an imaginary circle around which you have randomly drawn and labelled "the poor" and dismissed from any kind of status as human beings... like other groups have been labelled in the past.

The poor are a money sink? Does your brain you even process the lack of logic in those words?

I'm a recently ex-libertarian of many decades, but it is this attitude so eloquently expressed by Romney with his 43% remarks, that had me voting 3rd party. And Romney wasn't even telling the truth if you look at his actions in MA, but just saying shit to get donors pumping out the bucks.

SOJO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SOJO said...

It's like saying "Oh, those diabetic toes? They are a blood sink, cut them off." Not just that there might be a problem in the body that needs correction.

jim murray said...

Jesus says "the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The eastern mystic says "be here, now". Both implying that heaven is not a place but a frame of reference.

phx said...

Jesus says "the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The eastern mystic says "be here, now". Both implying that heaven is not a place but a frame of reference.

Right. Or it's an act of perception.

Blair said...

Christ was quite specific about the requirements into heaven. The belief of him and only through him can you have everlasting life. A simple yet monumental requirement for many.

I'm not sure how that negates what I said. Unless you believe that it's actually your decision and not God's grace that gives you Life.

Methadras said...

SOJO said...

@Methadras

I'm with phx. Your attitude and words are disgusting.

They aren't "the poor" they are human beings, our fellows, for god sake, an imaginary circle around which you have randomly drawn and labelled "the poor" and dismissed from any kind of status as human beings... like other groups have been labelled in the past.

The poor are a money sink? Does your brain you even process the lack of logic in those words?

I'm a recently ex-libertarian of many decades, but it is this attitude so eloquently expressed by Romney with his 43% remarks, that had me voting 3rd party. And Romney wasn't even telling the truth if you look at his actions in MA, but just saying shit to get donors pumping out the bucks.


It isn't the poor's human-ness that concerns me. It's their collective ability to be a huge drain on the treasure of a country. You squeal and gnash your teeth at me, when you are looking at the wrong place. Blame them. They are the drain, I'm a productive human being, I do not ask for government nor church charity, but yet in your eyes, I'm the horrible person when I call out the multi-millenial call to help the poor and for what?

They cling to our pant legs waiting for our crumbs. Asking to be taken care of by either church or government, and you maudlinly screed your little bleeding heart nonsense about how your political ideology dovetails with vapid idea of what you think Romney implied as a function of you becoming an independent. Who gives a fuck. How many trillions has this country spent on the poor and what have they gotten for it? More poor, you stupid fool. Creating a culture of dependency on the backs of those who produce with no end in sight. You are the problem, you can have them, but stop foisting them on the rest of us that don't care to support them anymore on the backs of our hard earned labor.

Methadras said...

SOJO said...

It's like saying "Oh, those diabetic toes? They are a blood sink, cut them off." Not just that there might be a problem in the body that needs correction.


You're an idiot. You are now going to equate diabetes with being poor? Oh wait, you are stupid that's how you can do that.

Methadras said...

Blair said...

Christ was quite specific about the requirements into heaven. The belief of him and only through him can you have everlasting life. A simple yet monumental requirement for many.

I'm not sure how that negates what I said. Unless you believe that it's actually your decision and not God's grace that gives you Life.


It negates it in the fact that Christ requires belief in him, regardless of who you are to get into heaven. You can't be a Hindu and be saved. You can't be a Muslim and be saved. I'm sure you are comfortable in your Orthodoxy and what it teaches with respect to receiving God's Grace. Unless it is through the Blood and Body of Christ, it is only a really nice sentiment.