<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d12585839\x26blogName\x3dthe+old+SHLOG+(moved+to+shaungroves.c...\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://readshlog.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://readshlog.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-6606949357892583233', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

9/16/2005

IMAGINE THERE'S NO HEAVEN

Suppose later today a news item scrolls across the bottom of CNN "Archaeologist disproves the bible." You search the internet for more and find that in fact scientists and scholars agree that the ancient scrolls found somewhere in the Middle East recently predate the oldest versions of scripture known to exist. The scrolls contain discernible bits of Matthew that read differently from the bible we have always accepted as true. The most troubling difference? A passage in which the Pharisees press Jesus about the after-life. According to Jesus, according to these ancient scrolls, there is no Heaven. None. We die and that's all.

If these scrolls are proven to be authentic and true, do you still choose to believe everything else about Christianity? Do you still follow Jesus?

I presented this scenario to a small group of youth at my church years ago and a guy I considered one of the leaders, the most mature and knowledgeable of the crowd, answered first: "No. Why would I?"

Is the only reason for following Jesus the assurance that I will follow Him beyond the grave into Paradise? I'd answer NO. But that's because my motivation for following is deeper than what I get from following. But it wasn't at one time. It got that way by asking the question of myself one day: "If there was no Heaven I wonder if I would..."

This same kind of question, adapted for the moment's situation, is helpful in getting at my real motivations. I find myself wondering WHY I do and believe so many things. And this is how I peel back the layers of myself to reveal the heart of my motivations. I remove the benefit to myself from the situation (Y), the obvious prize (X), and ask "Now, without X, would I keep doing Y? Why? What would still motivate me if X went away tomorrow?"

With no need for a paycheck why would I do my job? Without need for sex why would I marry this person? Without a need for applause why would I write this song?

This kind of questioning has so often lead me to the most important answer: Why. So go ahead. Imagine there's no Heaven.

27 Comments:

Blogger mattroden said...

Shaun, great post. You don't know me, I'm a friend of Chad's, Rick's son-in-law, blah blah, I think it's great to point how much we modify Christianity to fit us. We were all about us before, we meet Christ, and then we try to make our faith all about us. Definitely something I've been discussing with students at our church in Atlanta. HT, bro.

9/16/2005  
Anonymous Matt said...

Without giving it any thought, I'd probably say that I would still follow Jesus. But I think that's just because I can't really accurately imagine what it would be like for there to be no heaven (or a situation with different truths than what I know). Maybe it's just cause I have no imagination at all.

What I really need to do is to think about what it would mean for there to be no heaven or hell, no fear of God, no one to answer to in the end, nothing. If there's no heaven...no way for us to be with God or separated from God in eternity, there really is no reason for Christianity, no reason for Christ, no reason for anything.

So, when it all comes down to that, I'd honestly say that I wouldn't follow Jesus if there was no heaven (that is if Jesus even lived in this scenario).

9/16/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Without thinking it through for too long either, I'd have to say also that if there were no heaven, there'd be no reason for Jesus to do what He did. I know that heaven is a real place because the Bible describes it (somewhat). To me, what heaven really is, is being in a constant, visible and perfect presence of God. Being the same as Christ (NOT being Christ!) in that we have a perfect fellowship with God in a place where there is no sin, no pain, no tears, no sadness, etc. A perfect place of communion with the trinity. The ONLY reason Christ came and died and rose so that we would be able to enter the kingdom as sinless and perfect through Him. No heaven, no need.

A good debate, but I guess that since the Bible NOW clearly states that is complete, inherant, and God-breathed and cannot be added to, I wouldn't be taking the word (no matter how much "proof" they claim to have) of any man about new "biblical discoveries."

The recent documentary describing how Christ was in fact, NOT crucified, but rather died of "natural causes" really cracked me up. I was curious to know how they performed the autopsy and who did it. Satan is very creative when it comes to the forms of deception he uses.

We just started our new Sunday morning Bible studies at church and I'm taking Apologetics 101. I'm so very excited about this class as it's being taught by a great teacher who just loves "organic witnessing" as he calls it. More to come.

Beth

9/16/2005  
Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

Wait, wait, wait; if there were no Heaven then there would be no after-life consequences correct? If there were no after-life consequences then there would be no reason for us to be worried about sin. We would end up creating our own hell on earth. But I would have to say that I'd still follow Christ. Even though his death wouldn't mean a thing anymore because there would be no use for”atonement for sin" for there would be no consequence in death. It's the fact that I would want to leave behind a legacy for my children to follow. And who knows maybe Jesus was being sarcastic.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Kathryn said...

no Heaven? Well, i'd better make sure to live this life here to the fullest then. no cruising or waiting for better. . maybe some Christians would be better off to think there's no Heaven, cuz then maybe they're care more about what's going on down here. i include myself in this. i'm not speaking derogatorily here.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Mark said...

Wait a minute, Beth. I missed something here. Where did you hear this story about Jesus dying of natural causes. That's just too funny. In some ways.

I actually went through this question while reading the book A Skeleton in God's Closet. Not the best novel I've read by any means, but it really did make me think about what my faith was in. Is it in archeology supporting the Bible or in God's word itself. It was actually a rather sobering week or so for me as I pondered the answer.

I'd like to say my faith is in the Bible. Just as I'd like to say I'd still follow Christ if there was no Heaven. But the words of Paul from I Cor. 15 keep coming back to me. "If there is no afterlife, we are of all men most to be pitied." Honestly, I'd have to say if there was no afterlife, I might easily walk away. If this is all we get, eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die and then nothing.

Wow, that's a rather scary confession there, isn't it?

9/16/2005  
Blogger Nick said...

Grovesfan said:
"Without thinking it through for too long either, I'd have to say also that if there were no heaven, there'd be no reason for Jesus to do what He did"

Doesn't the Christus Victor atonement model offer a way out of this? Jesus came to overthrow principalities of darkness to actively make all things right. I can imagine how that might happen without us being able to enter into a happy afterlife. I also don't agree that we would create a personal hell on earth without fear of afterlife consequences for sin. I can think of plenty of people who don't subscribe to an afterlife belief system who do a far better job of caring for our nation's poor and oppressed than many Christians do.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Me too, Nick.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Amy said...

is it just me or is "caring for the poor" the newest fad? Please do not misunderstand, I absolutely believe it is our reposibility and that we should do it because we love God. and He loves the poor. I think it's a great movement to bring recogonition to the fact that the poor go unnoticed by so many Christians. It's just interesting to me how Christianity develops these little fads and lately, "caring for the poor" seems to be it. Watch out worship music!!!

9/16/2005  
Blogger heater said...

i think the words my pastor used put it in the best way to describe my thinking:

"i'd rather live this way, following Christ, living for Him, and be wrong about Heaven than to live NOT following Him and there be a heaven."

9/16/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amy -- for my two cents, I don't think "caring for the poor" is the latest fad. I think taking a public position as an advocate for the poor, though, is pretty dang trendy.

And calling for political change to help the poor is breathtakingly easy, too. In fact, easier than NOT doing it, for some, in the interest of hipness retention.

FWIW, I'm not sure the Jesus/Heaven question is really coherent. It's a neat question, in a way, I'm just not sure it can make sense.

His message was about the Kingdom. The incoherency is in separating the then, here, and later-ness of it.

Would I follow Jesus if the Good News -- which IS the Kingdom is here! according to Jesus -- weren't true?

I'm not sure I'd know what it was I wasn't following. Or something.

Brant

9/16/2005  
Blogger Fruitcake said...

If Heaven was out of the picture and God is unchanged I would definitely still follow God and serve Him. Knowing Him and communicating with Him...His being God and having a relationship with Him alone is priceless. What I would have the hardest time imagining is never being able to worship God in holiness. That is what I want to do - to have absolutely no distractions and worship HIM. Something I only hope for now because it's beyond understanding. So my answer is "yes."

9/16/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brant, you hurt my brain. Let me make the question Brant-proof then:

If there was no reward for following Christ given AFTER death to those who in fact followed Him, would you still follow and why? Kingdom now still intact. Kingdom after your heart stops beating is non-existent.

How's that?

BUT the post was really not about the Heaven question. It's cool that we've stopped there in our comments because I think it's very productive, for me anyway, to wrestle with why I would or would not follow Jesus without the reward of Heaven as the big prize at the end of life. Answering this hypothetical helps me better understand my motivations in reality. Is it all about me, really? Do I see any benefit to Christianity besides the hope of Heaven some day? Is there anything NOW that makes the Christian life different from any other life? Is there anything moving me to obey and love and live an "abundant" life besides the promise of eternal life? So I live the Christian life because I think the way I live each day earns me a prize, and without that prize do I live differently because the need to earn it disappears? That's valuable stuff to answer I think - for me.

But like I said the Heaven question is just an example of the TYPE of questioning that reveals what's under our actions - unveils our true motivations and can help unstick us from a purposeless and discontenting life. If we hate our job, for instance, we might want to figure out why we do it. One way of discovering that is to take money out, using our imagination, and discover if we'd still show up for work. If we would then why? If we know why we're there it can help us stay and find joy there, even when we don't like it.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Amy said...

Brant...
thanks. I guess that's a better way of putting it. becoming an advocate or being outspoken about it. :-) perhaps if it was truly the latest trend there would be far fewer poor.

as for the Heaven question, since I went off on a tangent....I think this IS something we eventually think about as a Christian...our initial or earliest reasons for following Christ become quite shallow the deeper in relationship with Him that we go. that is the process of sanctification. for whatever reason we first chose to follow Him...to kick a bad habit, to receive eternal life, to feel better about all the wretched things we've done...they fade as the reality of following Christ becomes Christ Himself. We follow Him not to get into Heaven, but because once you know Him...how could you not? AB Simpson wrote a great hymn about it called "Himself"
By the way, I'm not sure our motivation can ever be purely selfless. bc even denying ourselves and taking up our crosses is the absolute best thing for us, even if it is not the most comfortable. Well, my thoughts, right there.

9/16/2005  
Blogger Peanut Lost Souls said...

Hmm... So what IF there isn't a heaven...or let say Hell...then what? Are we to put emphasis on what is passed down to us and just believe what other believed is real in truth??? (sorry..skepticism running overtime.)

Thanks for this blog Shaun... it's really an eye opener...couldn't help to pondered what all you've written. Thanks again you guys are awesome!

Cindy

9/16/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Well said, Amy.

9/16/2005  
Anonymous Matt said...

If there was no reward, no heaven, no eternity for us, what exactly would Jesus's message be then? He obviously wouldn't have come in order to reconcile us with God. There is no need as there is no eternal death, no eternal punishment or separation from God, no "wages of sin."

So, I ask again, what would Jesus's message be? Just to be good and help others? Would there be a call to salvation? There would be no need for His death on the cross because there's no eternity for us. More to the point, if there was no eternity for us, would Jesus have even come to earth?

If that's the case, where there's no need for Jesus, then we wouldn't HAVE a Jesus to follow.

We can all say that that we would still follow after Christ. We can say that, but the question still remains, if there is no heaven or afterlife and whatnot, is there a need for Christ? Is there a reason for Him to come to earth and give us a way to live our lives?

So, my answer remains the same. If there were no afterlife...no heaven, I really don't see Jesus being in the picture (don't take that as blasphemy or anything). And because of that, I wouldn't be following Christ. I wouldn't even know who He is.

(and my brain hurts too)

9/17/2005  
Anonymous Cory said...

Reading through all the posts, I've seen some very valid arguments on both sides of the discussion. And as Shaun posed the question, my first thought was, Yes, I'd follow Jesus even without the promise of heaven. Even in my worst moments, I feel assured of God's presence with me every moment of the day everywhere I go. God's kingdom is most certainly in the here and now. I have had glimpses of that "abundant" life, and I am sure that all of "this" is worth it--there is richness and significance wrapped up in all my attempts to follow Jesus.

On the other hand, if I'm true to all the things that Jesus said and did, then the vehicle that carries my faith though the muck and mire is hope--the hope of heaven. While I experience moment's of God's glory here, I know that Jesus intended for us to experience the fullness of God as the ultimate expression of reconciliation. So for now, I'm a fish on the beach, with the tide of faith in Christ sustaining me until it carries me back to the ocean, the fullness of God, where I am able to swim in the depths, alive and free.

9/17/2005  
Blogger Lesli said...

I've been struggling this question for several days now, and it's really difficult to consider the situation with Heaven taken out of the equation, because it is so fundamental in so much of what Jesus taught and the Bible teaches. As some others have already stated, if there is no Heaven, what is the purpose for Christ's sacrifice on Calvary? If there is no consequence for rejecting Christ, why must God's wrath be satisfied? Yes, we can have a meaningful relationship with God here on earth, but that pales in comparison to the hope of seeing Him face to face for all eternity. If there is no Heaven, why evangelize? To merely bring civilized behavior to the masses? I'm a missionary because I know these people need Jesus and the hope He gives, not just social justice. If there is no Heaven, we have to grieve as those with no hope when our loved ones die. There is no great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. If there is no Heaven, why endure persecution for the sake of Christ? Why adopt a Kindgom worldview that is the underlying motivation for much of what Christ taught - this is not the endgame. This is only temporary, that (Heaven) is eternal. Yes, I love Jesus very much and I love the change He's made in my life now, but I long to see Him and His kingdom come as it should, not as we weakly try to make it come in this fallen world. Still pondering and struggling through it...

9/17/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

What are the differences between a non-Christian and a Christian on earth?

9/17/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

ANd...

Not saying this to stir things up but there are Christians who don't believe in Heaven and/or eternity. Well, it's not a lack of believe in eternity itself but rather a belief that eternal life is not exactly spelled out as a promise in the bible. It's really a debate about the translation of key words. For instance there is a word in Greek that just means a really long unfathomable time. But it does not mean time with no end. Ancient people, some argue had no concept of eternity. So when the bible is translated in such a way as to suggest the modern idea of eternity, some think this is dishonest and not what was intended in scripture.

Debunking eternity doesn't debunk Heaven but it comes close. Belief in Heaven is not required for salvation so it is possible to be a Christian and not believe it exists, or that it doesn't exist in the form we think of it in the Western world. Just a tangent thought.

SG

9/17/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not saying this to stir things up..."

Yes, we SG fans are aware of your timidity in matters controversial. You take great pains to avoid stirring things up.

Even though I nerd-ily call the question on the coherency thing, I agree it's worthwhile to think about this sort of thing. I guess I'd like to see the church focus on the Kingdom the way Jesus did, which was much more about bringing heaven here than us getting ourselves there.

Might there be no "there" for those uninterested in getting the "there" here, Matt 25 style?

Disturbing: I constructed that last sentence completely sober.

Brant

9/18/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Yes Brant, I have the spiritual give of stirring but in this case I really am not trying to stir - as in cause a fight. Stir to think, yes. Stir to argue, no. I just think it's interesting how much absolute we think there is, I've thought there is, about Heaven. How many songs are there about the place???? But in reality there are some very "normal" "mainline" protestants who say honestly how little they think we really KNOW about Heaven. Interesting because the consensus here in the comments seems to be that without Heaven their faith has no point.

And, yes, Brant, now I will stir purposefully by taking your question and removing the question mark. I DO think that those who do not work to bring the kingdom of God from there to here won't get there if there in fact exists for those of us formerly living here, once we are no longer. I'm sober too. Scary.

SG

9/18/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I've been thinking about this more this week and discussing it with others too. I think it's impossible to separate following Christ from heaven; as heaven is being in the presence of God; face to face in perfection. My reason for being a believer in the first place is of course because I know I am a sinner and I want forgivness from the one I wronged; God. More than what the reward of being in heaven holds for believers are the rewards we will get after we get there. Not to say that salvation is works based, but God says that faith without works is hollow (paraphrasing) and useless. Our rewards in heaven will be determined by what we are doing here on Earth to further His kingdom. We can assure our presence in Heaven by accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and saviour and repenting from our sin, but that's just where the journey begins. God does not need us, require our belief, or anything else in order to be. He just is, was and always will be. He does what He does for His glory and because our faithful works bring Him glory. OBEDIENCE is what God requires from all believers. Simply loving God is not enough to get to heaven and that's not what should motivate us. If we say "I help the poor, teach children, serve in church, etc. because we love God, that's not enough. As believers we know that God LOVES us, no matter what we do or don't do. When we sin, He still loves us. Our motivation as Christians should always be obedience to God. If we are obedient, then our works will flow naturally out of that obedience and our promised rewards in heaven will be the result. Loving God is something He commanded us to do and obedience to God will allow faith to grow and our works to bear fruit. I'm sure I could be wording this much better and only those who understand my ADD brain (completely Concerta deprived at this hour of the night) may be able to make sense of this. (No problem for you Shaun; you always figure me out!).

Beth

9/18/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

SO, Beth, if there is no Heaven your love for God, it seems, would still exist. If it did then your motivation for obedience would still exist. Would this obedience and love of yours then make your life of following Christ better - without the hope of Heaven - than a life of not following God, a life without love of God culminating in obedience?

9/19/2005  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,
Not sure I completely understand your question even with my Concerta on board this morning. I guess what I was trying to say above is that as Christians, our love of God should come from our obedience not the other way around. As far as would it be the same without heaven, I can't honestly answer that because I know there is a heaven and I will be there one day. As I mature in my walk, my goal is to be more and more obedient, thereby loving God more. Does that make sense?

Beth

9/19/2005  
Blogger deb said...

You all sound so young. . . and alive in Christ!! refreshing... I am 49 years old and often think about the heaven question. But I thing grovesfan has it right that "God says that faith without works is hollow". I often forget about heaven at the end of my road. That's dangerous thinking, because that also means I'm not following God's plan for me here on earth.... I probably don't have much treasure stored up there. On the other hand, I think I'll be happy enough shining halo's if that's my call...

10/04/2005  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home