The Most Beautiful Song You’ll Ever Hear

Regardless of your religious persuasion, I would hope you find this as a thing of beauty. For those that are Christians, I do believe that this is but a shadow of the music we shall hear in eternity, but this shadow is the closest we will get within this mortal realm.

The Russian language (and composition) is significantly underrated as a thing of power and beauty. This is the Trisagion, though under the composition of G. Sviridov.

“Will [insert sin here] prevent you from going to Heaven?”

It’s very popular within evangelical Christianity to ask, “Do you think such and such will go to Heaven?” In other words, we ask if alcoholics can still go to Heaven, homosexuals, drug addicts, tax evaders, and the list goes on. This type of reasoning isn’t limited to conservatives either. Just as conservatives will quickly point out that those engaged in sexual sins run the risk of the fires of Hell, many liberal Christians equally say that those who neglect the poor will never enter Heaven (assuming that they haven’t become universalists, or still believe in Heaven).

However, I think this line of reasoning is faulty. It’s impossible to say exactly who does and doesn’t go to Heaven as salvation is a matter of God’s mercy and grace, not our own reasoning. The Bible simply doesn’t provide a check list for what it is to quality for Heaven; it gives us the overall criteria, but even this is open to the subjective experience of the individual. After all, a person who accepts Christ and dies five minutes later hasn’t had a chance to serve the poor, be baptized, or have a full faith, yet universally people say, “oh, he went to Heaven.” All salvation is based upon God’s mercy, not upon our reasoning.

A better way to approach the issue is to ask, “Will this sin negatively impact your relationship with God?” So does an alcoholic go to Heaven? I don’t know, that’s between him and God, but I can say that being addicted to alcohol will negatively impact one’s relationship with God. We can’t say whether or not an addiction to a certain sin will prevent that exact individual from going to Heaven, but we can say that it will impact their relationship with God.

When we ask whether or not something will keep us from Heaven, we’re acting as though Heaven is the end goal of Christianity. But Heaven isn’t the goal, God is the goal. The purpose of the Christian life isn’t to achieve Heaven, but instead to deepen a relationship with God. Heaven is merely an continuation of that relationship. If Christianity were about being selfish, then perhaps asking about Heaven would be pertinent, but Christianity is about a relationship, thus the concern is over that relationship.

As Christians we shouldn’t worry over whether or not a specific sin will keep us out of Heaven, or an addiction to a sin will keep us out of Heaven, or even who will and won’t go to Heaven. All of this rests upon the mercy of God. Instead, what we should be concerned with is our relationship with God and what can affect that relationship.

Mystic Mondays – The Mysterious Hope of Things to Come

Once in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of our sorrows, the pre-incarnate Christ walked within the Garden looking for Man and Woman. He knew what had occurred. He knew His creation had rebelled. He knew the pain and suffering that was to come.

We can almost hear the pain as we read the most overlooked, but painful words within the entire Bible, “And the LORD God said unto them, ‘Where are you?’” God knew where they were, He knew where they were hiding; His question was a rhetorical one. Man answered and admitted to his rebellion and Woman confessed what she had done. The march toward Calvary had begun.

In a small insignificant town in the Roman province of Judea, the Christ child was born. God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God who was present at creation and the Fall, had come to fix what was broken.

We cannot begin to fathom what the world looked like through the eyes of Christ. For Him to walk in human flesh amongst His creation, to see the effects of sin on His world, what did the incarnate God feel? “Where are you” He must have uttered to creation as He walked through the various towns of Judea.

God asked Man and Woman where they were, but He did not wait on them to come find Him. He instead went into the world to find them.

God incarnate, who cursed Man for his rebellion, who sought after Man in the Garden, hung upon a cross. The crafty serpent of old thought he had defeated God, but Christ arose, solidifying His solution. The serpent had bruised His heal, but He had crushed the head of the serpent.

“Where are you?” His question echoes throughout human history up to the present age and all the way to when He returns. “Where are you?” As He watches humanity rip itself apart, as He watches humanity turn against Him on a daily basis, He must be asking, “Where are you?”

Yet, in this rebellious world there are those who are covered by His Son. Just as Man and Woman needed a covering to hide their nakedness, their shame, we too have a covering to hide our wickedness, our shame. Our covering is the blood of Christ.

Those who belong to Him shall one day walk with Him again. There is a future hope, an end to our suffering, a time where we will not sin, where we will be done in our rebellion.

There will be a time when those who suffer from physical ailments, from these disease-ridden bodies, shall be given new bodies where such pain is gone. The blind will look into the eyes of Christ and see the wondrous acts of His love. The deaf shall hear with clarity the songs of the angels praising God almighty. The hungry will feast with the Lord at the great banquet table. The orphans shall feel the loving embrace of their Heavenly Father and no longer feel the sting of loneliness.

There will be a time when the oppressed shall experience freedom in the presence of the Spirit. Those who are bed-ridden, those who are diseased, those who suffer constant pain will walk amongst God’s beautiful creation, dancing and leaping across His land with Christ by their sides.

But all of this pales in comparison to the reconciliation we will have with Him. We will no longer offend Him. We will no longer contradict Him. We will be in perfect union with the Father as we fall down and worship Him eternally. We will no longer have to hear those painful and cursed words, “Where are you?” We shall instead hear His soothing words of grace; “I have found you.”

Heaven and the Human Mind: A Response to Stephen Hawking (Featuring St. John of Damascus)

Stephen Hawking was interviewed by the Guardian last Sunday concerning his views of the afterlife and, to no one’s surprise, he denied the existence of the afterlife. His reasoning, however, is shockingly bad. This is because Hawking makes two completely contradictory claims: On the one hand he says that Heaven is merely wishful thinking, but on the other hand he says that our brains are like computers. How can a computer – something that lacks free will – have wishful thinking – something that requires free will?

A computer, by definition, can only know what has been programmed into it. Even computers that learn still lack free will proper because they’re stuck with the programming they have. If you program a computer, say Hal 2000, to murder everyone on a space ship, then Hal 2000 will murder everyone on that ship. It might learn new and creative ways to murder the people, like sucking them into the vacuum of space, but ultimately its sole purpose is to murder everyone on the ship. Thus, the computer is stuck with its programming. I will deal with that later, but first let us look at Hawking’s belief in Heaven directly.

If this is true for humans, then where is the moral responsibility? More importantly, how does Heaven become wishful thinking if we are programmed with knowledge? Ultimately, while Hawking’s religion is science, his reasoning forces us to believe that Hawking is ultimately irrational in his beliefs.

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Contemplation on things to come

This morning, as I was driving toward the east watching the sunrise (around 6am), I began to think of the things to come on the new earth. I drove by a hospital and realized something; there won’t be any hospitals on the new earth. This got me to thinking of vocations, places, and buildings that will no longer exists on the new earth:

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Dentists
  • Prisons
  • Police Officers
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Firefighters
  • Hunters
  • Meat processors
  • Junk yard workers
  • Court rooms
  • Judges
  • Pharmacies
  • Lawyers
  • Soldiers
  • Weapons producers
  • Social organizers
  • Politicians
  • Funeral homes

And the list really goes on from there. If you can think of some other vocations, please let me know.

Now, none of that above is to say such vocations are useless or wrong, merely that though they are needed in a fallen world, in a redeemed world they wouldn’t be needed. But think about it; our world is so fallen that we take these vocations for granted. These vocations exist solely because we live in a fallen and evil world. We have come to rely on vocations that are meant to keep peace in a fallen world and provide comfort without realizing that, were it not for sin, such vocations wouldn’t even exist.

Just some thoughts.