Monday, January 16, 2006

A Shoddy Theology of Heaven

It is extremely popular in most evangelical circles to bash the health and wealth, name it and claim it theology. I'm glad. We ought to ridicule such dangerous doctrine. However, I find that in practice many evangelicals are not much better off. Instead of expecting material riches now, they simply believe that they will be filthy rich after they die. This is true, just as it is true that God's hears our petitions and will grant us whatever we ask for. Take this little quote for example, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you recieve them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24). That's an unqualified promise there. It may be qualified elsewhere, and it is, but in this context Jesus says ask for it, believe it, and you've got it.

If Mark 11:24 were all I had to go on, I'd be wearing a suit made of gold, a humongous gaudy tie, and I'd have my own show on TBN. But Mark 11:24 is not alone. I have James 4:3 that says, "You ask and do not receive, because you ak amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." How do I square this with Mark 11:24? It seems that anything that I ask for that tends toward the glory of God is going to be granted, but anything I ask for simply as an end in itself is not going to be given.

That's the problem with many believer's idea of heaven. In truth, they are not so much looking forward to seeing Jesus there as much as they can't wait to walk down Gold Street Avenue and have their great big mansion. They want to get into that place where their treasures are heaped up. Like Scrooge McDuck, they want to swim in their personal treasure vault for awhile. Instead of heaven being about the glory of the Lamb of God, He is simply a means to an end, and that end is living forever in a lavish paradise.

Have you ever heard something to the effect of this statement?:

"You don't think we'll just spend all our time worshipping, do you?"

That is the sort of mentality that makes me wonder if we really infected with a sort of "health and wealth" gospel that makes heaven our playground, and that most only look forward to it because of all the "cool stuff" they'll get.

As I have said before, heaven is heaven because Jesus Christ is there in all of His splendor. Heaven would be heaven if Jesus were there if the streets were gravel and I lived in a shanty. It is His glory and majesty and the greatness of seeing Him that we should be teaching people to look most forward to. Beside Him, all other rewards will be pale and lackluster.


ColinM said...

I feel compelled to comment on this one! Your statement echoes that of Paris Reidhead, who said that modern evangelicalism embraces a doctrine of humanism in that, unlike the liberals who say that the purpose of God is to make man happy while he is alive, they say the purpose of God is to make man happy when he dies. I asked a class, "If you and all your loved ones were in heaven, and God wasn't there, would you desire to be there?"

Have you ever heard people say, "Well, as long as I just make it in, I will be happy," in response to how (or if) they are walking in obedience.

These ideas have especially been at the forefront of my mind lately. With the IMB debate, and the Wade Burleson debacle, I have taken an unpopular side. I would like to hear where you weigh in on what is happening.

Also, have you read yet "God is the Gospel" by Piper? I am praying that this read encapsulates the ideas you just mentioned...if so, everyone of my relatives will be recieving a copy...

One more thing... your wife and her healing is still on my prayer she healed? Need some follow-up.

As always, great thoughts

Jim said...

Bang on comments! I think there is not much inherent difference between the greed of a baptist and the greed of a charismatic. Flesh is flesh.

It's amazing how we get stuck comparing physical analogies to spiritual concepts and assume that we will all walk some street of gold while giving obligatory reference to the King who shed His blood to save us.

Whatever it will be like is far greater than we could ever imagine. But let's stop using our carnal mind to fantasize pie in the sky.

Sojourner said...


I actually have "God is the Gospel," but I haven't finished it yet. I have been reading Mark Dever's "9 Marks" and "The Deliberate Church", but I will sit myself down and read it soon, I can assure you.

As for the politics of our convention, I am not certain what the 'popular' side is. I am absolutely against the things that the trustees passed. If not in theology, then in principle. As for Wade Burleson, I cannot say for certain anything about him. But with the past accusations of "strong arming" in SBC politics, I cannot help but wonder if he isn't being railroaded for not toeing the line.

pilgrim said...

Good post.

Anyone who would say-
"You don't think we'll just spend all our time worshipping, do you?"
doesn't understand worship, and doesn't realize worship is soemthing we do with our lives, not just singing songs, or gathering together for an hour oe two one day a week.

brother terry said...

That Will Preach!



Daniel said...

My old pastor used to pipe up, "If you don't want to spend time with Christ now (in prayer and fellowship), what makes you think you will when you get to heaven??"


étrangère said...

I've almost finished God is the gospel - good stuff, though to my mind towards the end to my mind he was just repeating 'Desiring God' and 'When I don't desire God' so I found it hard to stop myself just skimming it. It's does tie in with what you posted.

Our theology of the new heavens & new earth is surely strongly effected by our theology of creation. Those who balk at 'spending all our time worshipping' are probably imagining heaven as some ethereal place rather than a new creation in which (I reckon) we'll have work to do as part of worship - given it was a pre-fall commission - and throw in that our capacity for worshipping God 'all day long' and through all things will be perfected (rather than running out of thoughts, being distracted, etc.) and :) I think it's quite fine to look forward to the 'material' blessings of heaven - if the focus in that is anticipation of the joy of perfectly glorifying God for it all. Creation (& therefore new creation) was part of God's plan - he could have had Adam & Eve floating in some ether glorifying him, but placed them in a garden on earth which they could enjoy to his glory. Of course, if (/when) they neglected that God was the goal of all this, it wasn't 'heaven' any more. Praise God we won't be able to do that in the new creation!

étrangère said...

PS Just finished the book. Last couple of chapters are good and go into this.