Heaven Austin Farrer


Oh, do stop talking about me marrying you!í says the hard hearted girl. ĎItís so mercenary of you. Canít you like me a bit as I am? Is there nothing in it for you except getting me?í ĎDonít be so maddening,í says the young man. ĎItís absolute heaven being with you; but it canít be the same thing going around with you an evening now and then. You can call it mercenary if you like, but it takes all the heaven out of it if it isnít going to lead to anything solid in the end. Thatís how men mostly feel, so whatís the use of pretending?í

Perhaps this particular method of keeping young men on pins is no longer much in fashion, but even last yearís girl will do for this yearís parable. A parable of what? Surely the answer is obvious. ĎOh, do stop talking about heaven!í says the spiritual-minded girl. ĎItís so mercenary. Donít you have to say itís a privilege to serve God in this life? Is there nothing in it for you unless you are to be paid for it? and how paid? By having your precious self preserved when the world has no more use for your precious services. If you like, Iíll say itís an even bet whether thereís a life after this, or not. But what can you do about it? Not a thing, except live decently now; and youíd want to do that in any case. Why bother about the hereafter? Why not just leave it to God? ...í

We will begin by listing a few principles which emerge in the course of the (ensuing) wrangle.

  1. To hope for heaven has nothing particularly selfish about it. No one ever thought he could keep heaven to himself.
  2. Heaven is not a cash payment for walking with God; itís where the road goes.
  3. Heaven isnít an optional extra; our belief is nonsense without it.
  4. Our reason for believing it isnít that nature points to it, but that it leads us to itself.

I should like to develop the last point a bit. Heaven is nothing that created nature produces; it is a new creation. Thus we have no interest in trying to isolate a piece of us called soul, which tends to outlive the bodyís collapse. Our immortality is the new gift of God, not the survival of our old nature, whether in whole or in part. God alone can give us a future. It is better, then, to talk about the resurrection of man than about the immortality of soul. Belief in resurrection is belief not in ourselves, but in God who raises us. It is in fact the acid test, whether we believe in God or not. A God who raises the dead is a real power; he is not just a fanciful name for the order of nature, whether physical or moral. A God so identified with the natural order that he adds nothing to it is difficult to distinguish from the world he rules, or from the laws which govern it.

From ĎSaving Beliefí edited by Arthur Middleton ND

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