30 September 2010

Church Might Bore But Heaven Won't

Our notion of Heaven involves perpetual negations:
no food, no drink, no sex, no movement, no mirth, no events, no time, no art.
Against these…we set one positive:

the visions and enjoyment of God. Since this is an infinite good, we hold (rightly) that it outweighs them all...that is, the reality of the Beatific Vision would or will outweigh... the reality of the negations.
But can our present notion of it outweigh our present notion of them? That is quite a different question. For most of us at most times the answer is No...[For] the Vision is a difficult, precarious, and fugitive extrapolation from a very few and ambiguous moments in our earthly experience.
While our idea of the negated natural goods is vivid and persistent, loaded with memories of a lifetime, built into our nerves and muscles and therefore into our imaginations.
[And so,] the negatives have an unfair advantage in every competition with the positive. What is worse, their presence...vitiates even such a faint and ghostlike notion of the positive as we might have had.
The exclusion of the lower goods begins to seem the essential characteristic of the higher good. We feel... that the vision of God will come not to fulfill but to destroy our nature...[and] this bleak fantasy often underlies our ...use of such words as “holy” or “pure” or “spiritual.”
We must believe – and therefore in some degree imagine--that every negation will be only the reverse side of a fulfilling. And we must mean by that the fulfilling, precisely, of our humanity, not our transformation into angels or our absorption into Deity.
For though we shall be [in certain ways] “like angels” and made “like unto” our Master, I think “like with the likeness proper to men:” as different instruments that play the same air [song] but each in its own fashion.
How far the life of the risen man will be sensory, we do not know. But I surmise that it will differ from the sensory life we know here, not as emptiness differs from water or water from wine but as a flower differs from a flower bulb or a cathedral from an architect’s drawing.

  • C.S. Lewis in “Transposition” -- bolding and italics added