Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Heaven

One of the things that most strengthens my faith is compelling accounts of heavenly happiness. I think there are at least two reasons why such accounts tend to strengthen faith. First, a compelling account of heavenly happiness rebuts the "sounds like fairy tale" objection to Christian faith. Second, a compelling account of heavenly happiness resonates with us in a way that gives us evidence that we are meant for a different kind of life than the one we have hear. I wish there were more sermons on heaven. And we philosophers also should work more on giving good accounts of what heaven might be like.

11 comments:

zorionto said...


I've also been struck by a sort of Kant-like 'there must be a' for heaven. I'd love it if you did some follow-up blog posts on how and why heaven strengthens your conviction and how it rebuts the fairy tale / myth angle some take on it.

Red said...

But do you think that a compelling account of heaven help theists rebut the highly compelling arguments for Axiological Anti-theism?

Alexander R Pruss said...

What is axiological anti-theism?

Red said...

The view that Existence of God makes the world worse than it would otherwise be.
I only got familiar with it through work done under Klaas Kraay the view is popularly espoused by Thomas Nagel I think..

Tom said...

I am myself quite concerned about this issue. I find the prospect of living forever (as Outkast would put it, "Forever? Forever-ever? Forever-ever?") incredibly overwhelming, and not in a good way. Unfortunately, unlike some atheists, I do not find the prospect of death any better. My only logical consolation is that God is good, and whatever God has planned for us, it must be good, but this is of little use when in a panic, and it can even cause one to doubt the very coherence of the idea. Speculatively, I can say sensibly that time will not work the way it does here on earth, with plenty of theological/philosophical background, and that boredom as we know it is likely a function of our limited time on earth and in an environment such as heaven it would have little use, if it could even be understood.

But again, this is all of little use when in a panic about the two options that can await us, that we go out of existence or we don't.

Red said...

Yes, one of my worries with theistic philosophy of religion is that the arguments for theism seem to be just so abstract or disconnected from the experience a human person goes through,
it deals with abstract notions of Causation,explanation,infinity,modality etc something mostly
some dispassionate academic doing speculative metaphysics would be interested in.
The arguments for atheism on the other hand are about pain,evil,divine hiddeness,benefits of
naturalistic science etc.. they are just something more experiential ...

A coherent and compelling account of hereafter might remedy this problem and help pro-theists in axiological debates..specifically if one can somehow connect like a cosmological argument to an account of afterlife.

That being said I do think annihilation would be Ok..

Alexander R Pruss said...

Cardinal Newman remarks, though, that when people argue for atheism from evil, they focus on evil happening to others. When people connect the evil to first-person experience, he thinks they find it much more difficult to argue for atheism, because they see how that evil fits into their life. So if Newman is right, the argument from evil has a certain disconnect from experience, too.

Don't forget, too, the design argument--some versions of which connect closely to experience--and the moral argument.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Tom:

Regarding boredom, here's a thought. Imagine that you never experienced music until you were 30. Then at 30 you have a deep and wonderful experience of music. This would likely be an aesthetic experience like you've never had before, something incredible and life-changing. Moreover, what that experience would be like would be completely unpredictable from anything that came earlier. Now imagine an infinite sequence of such wonderful transformative aesthetic experiences, each one completely unpredictable from the previous. Could one then get bored in eternity? "Another wonderful transformative experience, completely new relative to my previous life... meh!"

(But of course this misses the central element of the story of heaven, that it is a story of being for eternity with the One we love.)

Tom said...

Dr. Pruss:

Regarding the argument from evil, I think that's an interesting point (and I'm also interested in the question of just who has the authority to speak about evil, philosophers or those who have directly suffered from grave evils), but there are certainly people whose faith is shattered by experiences of evil (anyone from Elie Wiesel to Amber Heard!). Any theory like Cardinal Newman's would have to address cases like theirs.

Regarding heaven, the scenario you describe is certainly less likely to be boring or torturously long than popular accounts of heaven. But the idea of it is still somewhat bizarre to me, and after however many millions of years of experiences such as that I don't know how it would be received. But again, it's possible time and boredom don't work quite the way they do here on earth (if they exist at all) in heaven. And I never said my fear and my being overwhelmedwas entirely rational.

Jo F said...

Interesting that you mention Eli Wiesel--I just finished reading his "memoir" *Night* this morning. In the final pages of the English version is his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, in which he manifestly shows his religious zeal and its influence on his political-justice activism. Here's an excerpt from the transcription on NobelPrize.org:

"Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all. Isn't this the meaning of Alfred Nobel's legacy? Wasn't his fear of war a shield against war?"

It's easier to argue for atheism via adducing holocaust accounts, but it says a lot to me that after reading that horrific recollection and witnessing for myself how realistic/objective Ellie is with evil and its relation to the notion of God, He went from a lifeless boy who could not sleep with his new found freedom after his liberation from Buchenwald to finding in himself new room for God and the calling to resolutely fight for the freedom of others. So great was his dedication to humanity that he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his service, not merely for writing a book.

Tyler McFarland said...

Dr. Pruss, I recently started following your blog because of a good reputation you have with some Christian philosophers I know. Your work was more impressive than I had expected.

I agreed with your sentiment that philosophers should give plausible accounts of heaven. I attempted to do so here, though I think it is different than what you have in mind. (I studied philosophy at Western Michigan University in my undergraduate studies)

I am placing the link so that you additional evidence that people are taking your suggestions with serious consideration: https://estrangewanderings.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/a-description-of-heaven/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true