Contaminating Heaven, or Fitting In There?

More than once in recent days, I have read the sentiment that heaven will only be occupied by certain types of people.  I read that sort of sentiment in J.P. Moreland’s The Soul.  Moreland argued that those in hell would not fit in were they to be in heaven.  Many of them are not giving, unselfish people, the argument runs, whereas heaven is a place where people are giving and unselfish.  And, even if we’re talking about a moral non-believer, Jesus Christ is not the object of that moral non-believer’s affections.  The moral non-believer would not fit in in heaven, where Jesus Christ is praised!

I encountered a similar sentiment in a Christian blog post that I read about forgiveness.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that God will not forgive those who do not forgive others.  People wonder if that means that a Christian can undo his or her own salvation by not forgiving someone.  The Christian blogger I’m talking about answered that it means precisely that.  He said that heaven is to be a place of forgiving people, and you would not want to contaminate it with an unforgiving person!

That sentiment makes a degree of sense.  I can’t say that it makes me feel all that good, since it seems to make salvation contingent on one’s ability to fit in, which I’m not all that good at.  I could say that I would fit in in heaven, where others are patient and nice, even if I am not consistently those things.  But here’s the rub: why should I be the only one with rough edges who is let into heaven?  And, if heaven accepts others with rough edges, we have conflict!  It’s not heaven anymore.

It’s odd to me that we are on this earth, learning to put up with people’s BS, when heaven will not even be a place where people’s BS is tolerated.  What, then, are we being prepared for, exactly?  Why would God teach me patience or the need to forgive others, if I will not even need those attributes in heaven, where people are so perfect, or at least better than they are here?

Here’s another question: Suppose I go to heaven with rough edges.  Is it necessarily the case that I will contaminate the place?  Maybe other people’s—-and God’s—-love will rub off on me, and that will make me more loving.

Those are my ramblings for the day…

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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7 Responses to Contaminating Heaven, or Fitting In There?

  1. From the teachings drummed into my head during my school years in Catholic school all the way until high school graduation; as long as you confessed your sins sincerely you went to heaven, end of story. Why would anyone want to argue with that? In Catholicism I always thought that it was pretty much cut and dry; confess, absolution and forgiveness. Why complicate things with questions?


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    That is what I do here, though: I ask questions. Some may find them important; some may wonder what the point of them is, exactly. I wonder myself, sometimes. I do think some of it is trying to understand why, not just what. Some of it is looking for something new and interesting, or just sharing what I find interesting. Some of it is because the Bible and Christianity phrase things in certain ways—-or present certain kinds of concepts—-and many may not have problems with them, but I do. So that’s where I am, I think. I do appreciate your comment, though—-it does plant the seed within me of thinking, “Well, maybe that’s what I need to do—-confess my sins, and receive forgiveness, and let that be that.” I would say, though, that, even here, people can take that insight in different directions: you have your mafia Catholics who confess then go back to their mafia work, and then you have the recovering Catholics who felt that Catholicism put them through a lot of guilt-trips.

    Anyway, my comment was a bit rambling. I hope nothing I said there was offensive.


  3. I love when you ramble; it is always rich with thoughtfulness and sincerity. I just worry sometimes that you are too hard on yourself, that was a small part why I said that as long as we are sorry we are forgiven. I definitely understand the Catholic guilt thing, I have begun to shed it with life experience but it can be a doozy of a trip when one is young.


  4. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Those are good points. There are posts in which I am hard on myself. I wasn’t intending to convey that in this particular post—-but rather to explore an idea—-but I can see how I did come across as being hard on myself. What I may do in the future, maybe, is write posts like this in more neutral language: rather than saying that I personally am discouraged by such-and-such a doctrine, I can say how such-and-such a doctrine could disturb people, or does not cast God in that good of a light.


  5. jamesbradfordpate says:

    One other point I was going to make but did not get to: I think that the topic of my post here—-fitting into heaven—-is relevant to Catholicism, too. My understanding is that this is one function of purgatory: to cleanse people so that they are fit to be in heaven.


  6. I didn’t mean that you should censor your writings, not at all. it is your blog and it is there of all places that you should feel free to be able to express yourself. I have come to care and wanted to let you know that I worry, but my worrying should never come between you and your self-expression. Keep rambling 😀


  7. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks Laurie. 😀


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