Tuesday, June 22, 2004

One of the biggest embarrassments for Christians (and indeed many other religious people) appears to be the afterlife. We simply don't want to talk about it even though we do like to think about what it might be like. Part of the problem is that we have very little to go on and the other part is that for many people, eternity seems a bit too long for comfort.

I've been thinking about this matter too and have had some thoughts I thought I'd share over a few posts. The first consideration which I think causes a lot of problems is the one of time. People seem to get the impression that heaven must be somewhere people go after they have lived and they then watch the events on earth happening after they have died.

I am pretty sure it isn't like that. Heaven cannot be in the universe and hence it cannot be governed by the universe's time. If heaven is eternal then there is no sense in which time there can run parallel to time here on earth. It exists outside time. How can this work? Oddly enough, St Augustine sussed this out in about 400AD. He realised that from the vantage point of God (and by extension, I think, anyone else in heaven) the whole history of the world is laid out like a road viewed from a mountain top. One can 'see' what is happening at any given moment simply by looking in a different direction up or down the road. Of course we find it hard to visualise four dimensions, but physicists won't find the concept hard to grasp. This also explains what is meant by divine omniscience. God has the whole universe in His field of vision all the time so always knows what is going on. Obviously, this doesn't mean that He is always effecting what is going on and so clearly divine omniscience does not effect freewill. God watching us does not make us behave in a particular way.

This might mean that when we are in heaven we will have a similar ability to see the whole history of the universe at once. What a sight that would be!

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