Monday, October 12, 2009

The individuality of giftedness

Several months ago I invited anyone reading this blog to opine on heaven (here’s the link). Most of us who believe in a real heaven will differ on the details, but not on the substance of the place. The following blurb is just such an example, sent to me last week by a good friend whose company I expect to enjoy for eternity. What he has written inspires me.

My views (on heaven) are an amalgam of diverse beliefs, from several sources. To state the obvious: First, heaven is a body politic, a community of individuals who will interact with each other individually and corporately. This body is not a democracy, though it will be highly democratic, but a monarchy. Is it called anything but a kingdom in the Bible? Not sure; l don’t think so. None of us on earth can know now what this form of government or citizenship will be like.

My own belief is that the individuality of giftedness described in 1 Cor. 12 will be retained in that kingdom, and that it pertains not only to the spiritual gifts described to the Corinthians, but to our unique bodies, unique minds, unique life experiences.

How does this individuality play out in a sinless kingdom? We will build on our current abilities and surely will find new interests. I intend to spend a fair amount of time with Olivier Messiaen and J.S. Bach, among other composers who surely are there now. I’ll want to know: how did they compose that amazing music? And they won’t be bothered by my being in their composition classes, not just because they have forever to share with me, but because they will be sinlessly happy to share. And they will have been busy creating new works. How could they not? I’ll have new works to absorb. Education never ends.

Still, what are we to do in heaven for eternity? I may spend time composing; you may write. But for the bigger picture, I go to the first rhetorical Q&A from the Book of Confessions (I, too, was once a Presbyterian). “What is the chief purpose of man? The chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That rings true to me. That does not mean that we spend 24/7 in numbing obeisance to Him. Instead, we get to enjoy a proximity and intimacy to God that we cannot fathom here on earth. Stated another way, the order of what I consider important is likely to be clarified (radically changed) upon being in that kind of presence and proximity.

When Paul uses Jesus’ resurrection as the archetype of the kind of resurrection we will experience, I myself am convinced that Paul was referring to his physical death on Friday and miraculous undoing of death on Sunday. As the Apostle’s Creed puts it, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body.” It cannot be said any more clearly than that. Which leads to this: Heaven is a place where illness of all stripes, sinfulness and, of course, death are nonexistent.

In heaven, we will be rewarded for how we used the giftedness God gave each of us while we were on earth. Baptists are big on this. I myself see it was more of an awards ceremony: “Well done, good and faithful servant,” rather than a permanent business-class upgrade at heaven’s gate.

Apparently, Thomas Aquinas concluded that there is but one heaven and one earth. Current astrophysics posits 300 to 30,000 planets in our galaxy with civilizations, and at least 100 billion galaxies in our universe. The odds thus seem high that we are not the only creatures who are sentient enough to be able to respond to their Creator. This will be an interesting discovery. I find no reason to distrust the scientists’ calculations, so myself opt for many earths and one heaven, either interestingly and diversely populated or somehow rightfully segregated.

Does anyone else care to respond? What is your understanding of heaven?

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