Register Your Souls Here
Fourteen Questions About Heaven PETER KREEFT
ABSTRACT: Peter Kreeft answers fourteen commonly asked questions about heaven.
1.WILL WE KNOW EVERYTHING IN HEAVEN?
Of course not. Why would someone think that? There are two reasons, and the
first one is simply a confusion between Heaven and divinity. We will remain
human in Heaven, therefore finite, therefore our knowledge will remain finite.
True, we will share in divine life, but this is just a share. In fact, we share
in divine life now, if we are reborn in Christ; our souls nurture a fetal
Christ. But I have not observed that fact generating omniscience in myself or
When you come to think of it, knowing everything would be more like Hell than
Heaven for us. For one thing, we need progress and hope: we need to look
forward to knowing something new tomorrow. Mystery is our mind's food. If we
truly said, "I have seen everything",(1) we would conclude, as did the author
of Ecclesiastes, "all is vanity". (2) For another thing, the more knowledge,
the more responsibility. Only omnipotence can bear the burden of omniscience;
only God's shoulders are strong enough to carry the burden of infinite
knowledge without losing the joy.
The second reason we may think our heavenly knowledge is infinite is the
theory that on earth we have already an access, a potency, for all knowledge;
that the brain is a "reducing valve", not a generator.(4) Perhaps the Fall
lowered the curtain between us and all truth, which we now see "through a
glass, darkly"; (5) and in Heaven the curtain will rise again. Thus, the
knowledge we now have is both a memory (6) and a prophecy of Paradise.
But even if this theory is true it does not entail our omniscience. Even if
there is no curtain in Heaven, even if our consciousness there dashes against
no wall or limit, still we remain like the tiny figures in a Chinese landscape:
small subjects in an enormously larger objective world. Even if we then escape
from the tiny hut in which we are now imprisoned and through whose smudged
windows or chinks in whose walls we now must look even if we wander freely in
the country of light we are in the light, not the light in us. Our first and
last wisdom in Heaven is Socratic, just as it is on earth: to know how little
we know. If there is no end of the need for humility in the moral order (the
saint is the one humble enough not to think he is a saint), the same is true of
the intellectual order (the wise man is the one humble enough to know he has no
wisdom). It all depends on the standard of judgment: by earthly standards most
of us are moderately saintly and moderately wise; by Heavenly standards all of
us, even in Heaven, are children. And by the standard of the infinite,
inexhaustible perfection of God, we remain children forever. Happy children,
fulfilled children, but children.
Perhaps this will be one of the supreme tests: would we choose the
childlikeness of Heaven or the promise of "maturity", of "humanity come of age"
in Hell? Will we suffer gladly the blow and shock to our pride that is Heaven's
gift of eternal childhood (thus eternal hope and progress) or will we insist on
the "successes" of "self-actualization" that Heaven denies us and Hell offers
us? If the latter, we will find despair instead of hope, ennui instead of
creative work, and the emptying out of all our joy. Jesus' teaching, "Unless
you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of
Heaven",(7) is not something to be outgrown. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, when
asked which are the four most important virtues, replied, "Humility, humility,
humility, and humility."(8) It is only the foolish egotist who thinks that our
smallness relative to the infinite riches of objective reality is a problem to
2. WILL WE ALL BE EQUAL IN HEAVEN?
By God's grace, no! How awful that would be almost as awful as knowing
everything. Having no heroes,(9) being unable to look up to anyone, would be
Hell, not Heaven.
We modern egalitarians are tempted to the primal sin of pride in the opposite
way from the ancients. The old, aristocratic form of pride was the desire to be
better than others. The new, democratic form is the desire not to have anyone
better than yourself. (10) It is just as spiritually deadly and does not even
carry with it the false pleasure of gloating superiority. Flat, boring,
repetitive sameness is simply not the structure of reality in a theistic
universe, (11) either on earth or in Heaven. However, in Heaven, as on earth,
each of us will be or do something no one else will be or do as well. No one
will be superfluous.
If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have
created more souls than one . . . . Your soul has a curious shape because it is
a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the
divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many
mansions . . . each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one
aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can.(12)
God's justice is not ours. It surprises ours in a double way. On the one hand,
the one-hour workers receive the same pay as the all-day workers, in Christ's
parable. (13) "He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those
of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has
sent empty away."(14) "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and
hill shall be made low."(15) But on the other hand, to him who already has,
more will be given, and "from him who has not, even what he has will be taken
away". (16) Human justice is outraged by both halves of Christ's paradoxical
Justice does not mean equality. In a poem, in the universe, in mathematics, in
architecture everywhere there is natural justice, justice means inequality,
yin and yang, male and female, higher and lower, East and West, light and
darkness, land and water. No flat, dull repetition but uniqueness. In human
relationships too, justice does not mean equality, but treating equals equally
and unequals unequally.(17) Is it just to treat a pig like a man? If so, it is
also just to treat a man like a pig. One of the astonishing blind spots of
modernity is its unquestioning fixation on equality.
Of course there are degrees of perfection in Heaven; it is quite the divine
style. There are degrees of perfection in everything God created (though not in
everything we create). Equality is a man-made legal fiction designed as a wall
of defense against tyranny, a medicine against a disease.
"We must all be guarded by equal rights from one another's greed, because we
are fallen. just as we must all wear clothes for the same reason. But the naked
body should be there underneath the clothes, ripening for the day when we shall
need them no longer. Equality is not the deepest thing, you know. " "I always
thought that was just what it was. I thought it was in their souls that people
"You were mistaken .... That is the last place where they are equal. Equality
before the law, equality of incomes-that is all very well. Equality guards
life; it doesn't make it. It is medicine, not food . . . "
"But surely in marriage . . . ?
"Worse and worse . . . . Courtship knows nothing of it; nor does fruition . . .
. It is not your fault. They never warned you. No one has ever told you that
obedience-humility-is an erotic necessity."(18)
Why is there no jealousy in this hierarchical, aristocratic, nonegalitarian
Heaven of authority and obedience? Because all are cells in the same body. The
kidney does not rebel because it is not the eye.(19) jealousy is the principle
of Hell. There is no Hell in Heaven.
3. DO THE BLESSED IN HEAVEN SEE US NOW?
The living often say they feel the dead present and watching them. Is this
illusion or fact?
It is fact. The Bible says we are surrounded by "a great cloud of witnesses".
(20) The context is speaking of the dead. They are alive. For God is "not God
of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him". (21)
Reason confirms revelation here. Does their love for us cease? Does it not
rather increase in purity and power? And do not their vision and understanding
"The Communion of Saints" means not only (I) love and understanding among the
blessed in Heaven and (2) love and understanding among the redeemed on earth
but also (3) love and understanding between those two groups, the Church
Militant and the Church Triumphant, temporarily separated by death.(22)
What difference does this make? Well, what difference does it make to you if
you believe you are being watched by a thousand living human eyes? Multiply
this consequence by millions and by the increase in love and understanding in
Heaven. Throw in literally innumerable angels, (23) all of them sharing
mightily in God's love and knowledge. Then you have the difference it makes:
the exponent of infinity.
The link connecting the Church Militant with the Church Triumphant, the link
connecting Heaven and earth, is the incarnate Christ. We participate in what
Christ does, and Christ links Heaven and earth. He is still on earth as well as
in Heaven (1) by His Spirit and (2) in His Mystical Body, the Church, His
people. Christianity does not worship an absent Christ. And just as He can be
on earth even when He has gone to Heaven, so can we in Him. The cells in the
one Body are all living cells, but only a very few of them are living on earth.
4. DO GHOSTS COME FROM HEAVEN?
First of all, Scripture strictly forbids us to call them up (24) as Saul called
up the ghost of the prophet Samuel by means of the Witch of Endor's necromancy.
Because of this deed, he lost his kingdom and perhaps his soul.(25)
The reason for the stricture is probably protection against the danger of
deception by evil spirits. We are out of our depth, our knowledge, and our
control once we open the doors to the supernatural. The only openings that are
safe for us are the ones God has approved: revelation, prayer, His own
miracles, sacraments, and primarily Christ Himself. He has made a straight and
safe road for us from earth to Heaven, through the dark woods of the
innumerable, unknowable, and unpredictable spiritual forces that are to us as
fire to an infant or a juggernaut to an ant. The danger is not physical but
spiritual, and spiritual danger always centers on deception. The Devil is "a
liar and the father of lies". (26) He disguises himself "as an angel of light".
Nevertheless, without our action or invitation, the dead often do appear to
the living. There is enormous evidence of "ghosts" in all cultures. What are we
to make of them? Surely we should not classify the appearances of the wives of
C. S. Lewis and Sheldon Vanauken, just to take two Christian examples, as
We can distinguish three kinds of ghosts, I believe. First, the most familiar
kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones. They seem to be working out some unfinished
earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released
from their earthly, business.(28) These ghosts would seem to be the ones who
just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to
learn many painful lessons about their past lives on earth.
Second, there are malicious and deceptive spirits and since they are
deceptive, they hardly ever appear malicious. These are probably the ones who
respond to conjurings at sťances. They probably come from Hell. Even the chance
of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptation to
Third, there are the bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family,
especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God's will, not ours, with messages
of hope and love. They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts
who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for
the sake of us the living, to tell us all is well. They are aped by evil
spirits who say the same, who speak "peace, peace, when there is no peace".
(29) But deception works only one way: the fake can deceive by appearing
genuine, but the genuine never deceives by appearing fake. Heavenly spirits
always convince us that they are genuinely good. Even the bright spirits appear
ghostlike to us because a ghost of any type is one whose substance does not
belong in or come from this world. In Heaven these spirits are not ghosts but
real, solid, and substantial because they are at home there. "One can't be a
ghost in one's own country." (30)
That there are all three kinds of ghosts is enormously likely. Even taking
into account our penchant to deceive and to be deceived, our credulity and our
fakery, there remain so many trustworthy accounts of all three types of ghosts
trustworthy by every ordinary empirical and psychological standard that only
a dogmatic a priori prejudice against them could prevent us from believing they
exist.(31) As Chesterton says, "We believe an old apple-woman when she says she
ate an apple; but when she says she saw a ghost we say, 'But she's only an old
apple-woman.'"(32) A most undemocratic and unscientific prejudice.
5. WILL WE HAVE EMOTIONS IN HEAVEN?
Emotions move us; we do not move them. They are a form of passivity. We will be
far more active in Heaven than we ever were before, since our spirits (which
are activity) will rule rather than being ruled by our bodies (which are
passivity). Nevertheless, we will have bodies, therefore passivity, therefore
emotions, though they will not be at the unfree whim of heredity, environment,
animal instinct, propaganda, others' demands, and the many other forces that
presently condition us.
Even when our spirits are perfectly free, they can feel. Even now, it is the
spirit that feels, not just the body. It is a prejudice imported from Greek
philosophy, not a notion found in Scripture, that feelings should be dominated
by rational thought. The center of the self which the Greeks located in
reason,(33) Scripture locates in the "heart", that which loves. This center is
no more a feeling than it is thinking; it is the prefunctional root of
both,(34) or it is a deeper feeling and a deeper thinking: the heart has its
reasons which the reason does not know".(35)
But since our thinking and our feeling are equal functions of the heart, we
will retain our feeling in Heaven just as we will retain our thinking. All our
humanity is perfected, not diminished, in Heaven.
6. WILL WE FEEL SORROW IN HEAVEN FOR THOSE IN HELL?
We seem to face a dilemma here. On the one hand, Scripture assures us that "God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the
former things are passed away".(36)
On the other hand, the blessed dead seem sometimes to manifest sorrow, like
Mary at LaSallette, weeping for the sins of the world.(37) And C. S. Lewis
says, "as there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may
be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them)".
(38) What could this mean?
Might it be that the sorrow appears only during our first, purgatorial stage?
At this point the pains of separation may affect not only the earthly bereaved
lover but also the heavenly beloved. As Lewis says, "I can't help suspecting
the dead also feel the pains of separation (and this may be one of their
purgatorial sufferings)."(39) But this would not explain the tears of Mary, who
is certainly beyond Purgatory.
Might it be that the sorrow is only an appearance, like angels' bodies, put on
for our sake? But the purpose of appearance should be to teach, not to deceive,
if the appearance comes from Heaven.
To solve this problem let us look at the greatest suffering, that which is made
possible by love. The more you love, the more you can suffer. That fact creates
the following problem: Does God the Father suffer? The affirmative answer to
that question has been declared a heresy (Patripassianism);(40) yet how can God
love us, and remain aloof and invulnerable? As Kierkegaard says, the
unhappiness that comes from the inability of lovers to understand each other is
infinitely more profound than that [unhappiness] of which men commonly speak,
since it strikes at the very heart of love . ... This infinitely deeper grief
is essentially the prerogative of the superior . . . in reality, it belongs to
God alone . . . . Men sometimes think that this might be a matter of
indifference to God, since he does not stand in need of the learner [us]. But
in this we forget or rather, alas! we prove how far we are from understanding
him; we forget that God loves the learner.(41)
The dilemma, then, is this: If God cannot suffer, how can He really love us?
But if He can suffer, how is He God? To answer this question would also be to
answer the question of whether and how we can suffer in Heaven, for Heavenly
children resemble their Heavenly Father.
The answer requires us to distinguish between two ingredients of earthly love
and caring, an active and a passive ingredient, that are together in fact but
distinguishable in thought. Say a parent loves a child who has done something
harmful to himself. The parent's love speaks two words to the child. The first
word, the word of active caring for the other, says, "How could you do this to
yourself ? " The second word, the word of passivity and vulnerability, says,
"How could you do this to me?" God loves us with the first love only, and the
blessed in Heaven will love as God loves. We cannot blackmail God. We cannot
make Him wring His hands by holding our breath until we turn blue in the
face.(42) He truly loves and cares, yet He is invulnerable not by being aloof
but by being supremely active, not passive.(43)
If our spirits are similar enough to God, we too can love without sorrow or
vulnerability because we love only with the active feeling of caring, not the
passive feeling of being hurt. For our spirits then are not controlled by our
bodies, by heredity and environment. C. S. Lewis' experience of his dead wife's
presence and love was like that:
It was quite incredibly unemotional . . . . Yet there was an extreme and
cheerful intimacy. An intimacy that had not passed through the senses or the
emotions at all . . . . Can that intimacy be love itself-always in this life
attended with emotion, not because it is itself an emotion, or needs an
attendant emotion, but because our animal souls, our nervous systems, our
imaginations, have to respond to it in that way? If so, how many preconceptions
I must scrap! A society, a communion, of pure intelligences would not be cold,
drab and comfortless .... It would, if I have had a glimpse, be well, I'm
almost scared at the adjectives I'd have to use. Brisk? cheerful? keen? alert?
intense? wide-awake? Above all, solid. Utterly reliable. Firm. There is no
nonsense about the dead. When I say "intellect" I include will. Attention is
an act of will. Intelligence in action is will par excellence. What met me was
full of resolution.(44)
Yet on the other side of the dilemma, will Heaven lack the greatest of all
beauties of earthly art, the beauty of sorrow, of great tragedy? Nothing of
value is simply lost in Heaven; all is preserved and transformed. Earthly
indicators are to be read (though with caution) as pointers to Heavenly
And on earth, pain and pleasure are strangely akin at their peak, like death
and life. When a thing is enormously beautiful, it hurts. What Heavenly fact is
imaged in this earthly mystery?
Perhaps the ultimate fact of all, the nature of God, the inner life of the
Trinity as a system of self-dying, self-giving.(45) Perhaps this is the deepest
reason of all for pain on earth, and the solution to the "problem of evil": Why
does a good and loving God allow so much earthly suffering? To train us for
Heaven's joyful suffering and to enact, to incarnate, to manifest the ultimate
law of reality on our human level: the law of death and life, blessed
self-death (no longer blessed for fallen creatures) leading to eternal life.
"All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the
movements of that dance." (46) This is the supreme joy in all existence, the
joy of God's inner life of self-giving, the secret forever incomprehensible to
the rebel, angelic or human, who says "Better to reign in Hell than serve in
7. WILL WE BE FREE TO SIN IN HEAVEN?
Here is another dilemma. If we answer no, we seem to lack something: free will.
If we answer yes, we lack something else: moral perfection. The Heavenly
question thus lands us squarely into an earthly and present issue concerning
the nature of freedom and of morality and may help us to puncture one of
modernity's most pervasive and destructive illusions: the association of
freedom with rebellion and of obedience with unfreedom.
Suppose we change the question so as to avoid the ambiguity of the word
freedom. Are we able to sin in Heaven? If not, it seems we are programmed and
determined rather than free. If so, if temptation is possible in Heaven,
Heavenly security against sin is gone. One of the best things to look forward
to at death, say the saints,(48) is that "he who has died is freed from sin".
(49) If there is even a possibility of sin in Heaven, that possibility may be
actualized, for if the actualization of a possibility is impossible, then it is
not a possibility but an impossibility.
How can we preserve both free will and sinlessness in Heaven? Once again, God
is our model and solution: we solve this pseudoproblem in the same way God
does. He is both free and sinless. How? Let us judge our freedom by His, rather
than vice versa.
What do we mean by "freedom"? Sometimes (I) political freedom, freedom from
tyranny, oppression, or the denial of our rights; sometimes (2) physical power,
ability to act, freedom from hindrance; and sometimes (3) spiritual power to
choose ("free will"). Of course we will have all three in Heaven, but why won't
we be able to sin, since we will have free will?
Because we will also have a fourth freedom, the most important one of all:
freedom from sin, from what makes us not ourselves. We will be free to be the
true selves God designed us to be, free to be determined by God. This
determination does not remove our freedom but is our freedom, for even now
freedom is not simply indetermination; it is freedom to be determined by final
causes (purposes) rather than efficient causes (things and events that already
exist and act upon us). Our free will means that our present is determined by
our future rather than by our past. Final causes are at present only mental
pictures and desires. To say we are determined by final causes means that we,
like God, create by knowing; that as creative artists our knowledge antecedes
and determines the truth of its object, the work of art, rather than conforming
to its object, as scientific and empirical knowledge does. But we are objects
to God (though subjects to the world); we too, therefore, are true only when we
conform to God's knowledge of us, God's artistic plan for our identity. Since
our highest freedom means freedom to be ourselves, we are most free when we are
most obedient to God's will, which expresses His idea of us. Thus freedom and
obedience coincide. To obey God is to be free in the most radical sense: free
to be me, free from inauthenticity, free from false being, free from the alien
within, not just free from the alien without, the oppressor.
This explains a paradox frequently met in earthly experience: that at the
moment of freest choice it feels most like destiny, and at the moment of most
destined choice it feels freest. Caesar's crossing the Rubicon, choosing
someone to marry, a conversion decision-these all feel both more free and more
destined than ordinary choices. C. S. Lewis' explanation of this principle is
that it is all of us that chooses; nothing is left over.(50) Therefore there is
nothing in us that opposes the choice; it is certain; it is wholly determined.
But it is also wholly free because it is wholly self-determined. The whole self
chooses, the divided will(5l) is healed.
The answer to our question, then, is that "freedom to sin" is a
self-contradictory concept. Sin is inauthenticity and freedom is authenticity;
sin is our false self and freedom is our true self Sin is part of Hell and
freedom is part of Heaven. The question cannot be resolved, only dissolved,
because it confuses Hell with Heaven.
8. WHAT WILL WE POSSESS IN HEAVEN?
Nothing and everything. Saint Francis of Assisi and others devoted to poverty
understand this paradox. Saint Paul speaks of "having nothing, and yet
possessing all things" (52) because possessed by God: "all [things] are yours;
and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's." (53)
Heaven is pure communism. There is no private property in Heaven. (Earthly
communism, even when not atheistic, is another "too-soon" mistake of
Utopianism.) "In Heaven there is no ownership. If any there took upon him to
call anything his own, he would straightway be thrust out into hell and become
an evil spirit."(54) For the ultimate possession is the self, and if even that
is given away, nothing else can be held (because there is no holder); and that
is given away:
The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of
discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the
holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then
immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault; to cling
to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye
to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself
eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the
sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance "makes heaven drowsy with
the harmony."(55) As MacDonald says, "the heart cannot hoard",(56) only the
hand. As Marcel says, the true self cannot possess or have anything because I
do not have my own body as my body has things: I am my body.(57)
No one can possess goodness, truth, beauty, love, life, light, God. But Heaven
is these things. Therefore no one can possess Heaven. Whenever, even now, we
think of truth or goodness as something we have we become self-righteous,
narrow, and defensive. To have truth is to be dogmatic; to have goodness is to
be proud; to have beauty is to be vain; to have joy is to be miserable with
fear of losing it. God, I AM, pure subject, is the only Haver. He cannot be
had, nor can His attributes or His Kingdom of Heaven.
Thus, we must learn detachment to enter Heaven. Willy-nilly, death detaches us
from everything, even ourselves. We must learn to "die before you die. There is
no chance after."(58) Learning detachment from the world, which can be
possessed, is our training for learning detachment from the desire to possess
Heaven, which cannot be possessed. Asked whether he thought he would possess
any of his beloved library books in Heaven, C. S. Lewis replied, "Only those I
gave away on earth.(59)
9. WILL WE WEAR CLOTHES IN HEAVEN?
Those who claim to have caught glimpses of Heaven report a strange and
surprising answer to this question; and the fact that so many have said the
same surprising thing without previous acquaintance with each other lends
weight to the testimony. They say that it is hard to classify the blessed as
either clothed or naked.(60) If clothed, it is as if the clothing were a part
of the body, an organic growth, rather than an accidental, foreign covering: it
reveals rather than conceals, and it is natural and necessary rather than
artificial and (61) accidental. If naked, it is shameless and not arousing
erotic desires. It is not the result of "naking",(62) the process of taking off
the clothes that in our present state are natural, thus attaining a state of
nudity that is (in our present state) unnatural. (Nudist camps are not
The principle behind the naturalness of Heavenly clothing is the overcoming of
the distinction between appearance and reality. In Heaven, light reigns; we
know and are known.(63) On earth, shadows reign, reality hides behind
appearances as a mercy to fallen and weakened eyes.(64) We need the
double-lensed sunglasses of reason and faith to know truth now; in Heaven we
shall see the truth naked and direct. When reality appears and no longer hides,
so will we.
The clothing of Heaven is described in Scripture as "white garments".(65) White
is the color of light. Light reveals. On earth, clothes partly conceal and
partly reveal, just as language does.(66) In Heaven all is revealed. "Nothing
is hid that shall not be made manifest."(67)
Here, truth is aletheia, overcoming of Lethe: forgetfulness, appearance,
concealment. So clothing hides the body, and the truth about the body is
reached by unveiling, naking. In Heaven, the truth will be in the appearances
(fully revealed, fully apparent), so the truth of the resurrection body will be
revealed in its clothes. As the Son perfectly expresses the Father, clothes
will express the body.
Our heavenly clothes may express our earthly story and success. Socrates will
have his philosopher's robe. Heroes will wear the clothes associated with their
heroism.' Jesus will wear His crown of thorns. Each thorn will be a diamond.
10. ARE THERE ANIMALS IN HEAVEN?
The simplest answer is: Why not? How irrational is the prejudice that would
allow plants (green fields and flowers) but not animals into Heaven!(69) Much
more reasonable is C. S. Lewis' speculation that we will be "between the angels
who are our elder brothers and the beasts who are our jesters, servants, and
playfellows".(70) Scripture seems to confirm this: "thy judgments are like the
great deep; man and beast thou savest, 0 Lord". (71) Animals belong in the "new
earth ,(72) as much as trees.
C. S. Lewis supposes that animals are saved "in" their masters, as part of
their extended family.(73) Only tamed animals would be saved in this way. It
would seem more likely that wild animals are in Heaven too, since wildness,
otherness, not-mine-ness, is a proper pleasure for us.(74) The very fact that
the seagull takes no notice of me when it utters its remote, lonely call is
part of its glory.
Would the same animals be in Heaven as on earth? "Is my dead cat in Heaven?"
Again, why not? God can raise up the very grass;(75) why not cats? Though the
blessed have better things to do than play with pets, the better does not
exclude the lesser. We were meant from the beginning to have stewardship over
the animals; (76) we have not fulfilled that divine plan yet on earth;
therefore it seems likely that the right relationship with animals will be part
of Heaven: proper "petship". And what better place to begin than with already
11. IS THERE MUSIC IN HEAVEN?
First of all, the Bible says so.(77)
Secondly, great earthly music is particularly Heavenly, a sign or pointer
beyond itself to Heaven. What was dimly suggested in all earthly music that
moved us so much that the ancients necessarily ascribed it not to men but to
gods (78) goddesses, the nine Muses is precisely Heavenly music. That is
why we were moved here; it reminded us of There, which is our home.
Third, it may well be in music that the world was created,(79) and that music
is the original language. Spoken poetry is to music what prose is to
poetry.(80) Poetry is not ornamented prose, and music is not accompanied
poetry. Prose is ossified poetry,(81) and poetry is half of music.
It is not that music is in Heaven; Heaven is in music. Heaven is "the region
where there is only life, and therefore all that is not music is silence".(82)
Heaven is both silent, like the contemplative mystic, and full of sound, like a
dance or a symphony.
12. HOW BIG IS HEAVEN?
The very nature of space, and therefore of size, changes in Heaven. Meaning
determines size, rather than size, meaning.
The New Jerusalem's measures are symbolic, not physical.(83)
Heaven is big enough so that billions of races of billions of saved people are
never crowded, yet small enough so that no one gets lost or feels lonely. And
we can travel anywhere in Heaven simply by will.(84)
13. IS HEAVEN SERIOUS OR FUNNY?
The very distinction is too funny to take seriously. The distinction between
humor and seriousness is strictly earthly. Here on earth, much humor is "comic
relief " from the grim business of "real" life. But in Heaven, humor is high
seriousness. It is the inner secret of God and the blessed.(85)
Even on earth, saints play with their lives in the most outrageous way. Saint
Thomas More ended his life with a bad joke, telling the axman "please do not
chop my beard in two; it has not committed treason." (86) Jesus has the most
perfect sense of humor of all.(87) We do not often see it, because we think of
humor as jokes. But the most perfect humor is in the very situation itself,
especially irony, (88) the contrast between appearance and reality. "Let him
who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (89) is
irony. It could be more clumsily and directly rendered, "You judgmental fools
are worse than that adulteress-taking out splinters with logs in your
eyes."(90) There is great irony in the Sermon on the Mount: "Consider the
lilies of the field .... they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say
unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these."(91) In other words, "You're sillier than the lilies. Who do you think
you are anyway? God? (92) He'll take as good care of you as the lilies, won't
he?" There is irony in "You search the scriptures, because you think that in
them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me."(93) That
is, "You're trying to read the sign as if it pointed to itself" It is the same
irony as Pilate's "What is truth?"(94) as Truth stands in front of him.
Finally, there is Jesus' ironic remark to Nicodemus, who cannot understand
being "born again" and asks whether he must return to his mother's womb: "Are
you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand this?"(95) You experts
know everything except what it's all about.
Jesus is our best indicator of Heaven, and if there is humor in Jesus, there is
humor in Heaven. Jesus is the manifestation of the Father, and if there is
humor in the personality of the Son, there is humor in the personality of the
Father. For some reason, people think of the Persons of the Trinity as lacking
personality, as nebbishes. In fact, the three fullest personalities in all
reality are the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. They are characters! They
designed ostriches, for goodness' sake (literally). And supreme joke us.
Many of the resuscitated perceive and share Heavenly humor, even God's laughter
at repented and forgiven sins.(96) We can laugh only when we are free,
detached. The saint can laugh at life in his martyrdom, and once freed from sin
(but not till then) we can laugh even at sin in Heaven. Detachment is necessary
for humor. And in Heaven there is perfect detachment, even from self
(ek-stasis, "standing-outside-oneself") Therefore in Heaven there is perfect
The saint and the clown share the secret of levity, the union between the two
meanings of "light": truth (opposite of falsehood and darkness) and levity
(opposite of gravity and heaviness). Saints levitate! Body follows spirit.
But Heavenly humor is not the opposite of seriousness, only of joyless
seriousness. Saints, mystics, and the resuscitated take life more seriously
than others do. Everything gains an infinite importance, an "eternal weight of
glory". (97) Joy is a serious matter too good to be wasted on jokes. The
saint does not usually tell jokes,(98) because he does not need to, to relieve
the joylessness, to relieve sadness, to distract from the heavy, practical
world. "Joy is the serious business of Heaven."(99)
14. WHY WON'T WE BE BORED IN HEAVEN?
Because we are with God, and God is infinite. We never come to the end of
exploring Him. He is new every day.
Because we are with God, and God is eternal. Time does not pass (a condition
for boredom); it just is. All time is present in eternity, as all the events of
the plot are present in an author's mind. There is no waiting.
Because we are with God, and God is love. Even on earth, the only people who
are never bored are lovers.
Ecclesiastes 1: 14. Ecclesiastes 12:8. James 3:1; Luke 12:48. William
James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: New American Library,
1959), P. 324; Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (New York: Harper & Row,
1963), pp. 22-24. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV). Pascal, Pensees, trans.
Krailsheimer (New York: Penguin Books, 1985), 117, 131. Matthew 18:3 De
gradibus humilitatis, 1, 1. Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York:
Macmillan, Free Press, 1973). C. S. Lewis, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast" in The
Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (New York: Macmillan, ig6i).
" C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 95 5), PP. 18, 140-42. C. S,
Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), P. 147. Matthew
20:1-16. "Luke 1:52-53. Isaiah 40:4 (KJV). Matthew 13:12. St. Thomas
Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, 111, 142, 2. C. S. Lewis, That Hideous
Strength (New York: Macmillan, 1965), p. 148. 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. Hebrews
12: 1. Luke 20:3 8. The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IV, p. 17 1 Hebrews
12:22; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1, 50, 3. Deuteronomy Mio-ii;
Isaiah 8:ig. 1 Samuel 28. John 8:44. 2 Corinthians N: 14. Shakespeare,
Hamlet, act 1, scene 5, lines 9-22. Jeremiah 6:14; 8: 11. C. S. Lewis, The
Silver Chair (New York: Macmillan, 1953), P. 205. C. S. Lewis, Miracles, chap.
1. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1946), P. 279.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, X, 7. Hermann Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of
Theoretical Thought, trans. David Freeman (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian &
Reformed Publishing CO., 1953). Cf Proverbs 23:7; 4:23. Pascal, Pensees
(trans. Krailsheimer), 423. Revelation 21:4 (KJV). A Woman Clothed with the
Sun, ed. John J. Delaney (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961). C. S. Lewis,
The Problem of Pain, p. 152. C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (New York: Bantam,
1976), p. 64. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1921), VOL X, P. 449. Cf Helen
Waddell, Peter Abelard (New York: Viking, 1959), p. 265. Soren Kierkegaard,
Philosophical Fragments, chap. 2 in A Kierkegaard Anthology, ed. Robert Bretall
(New York: Modern Library, 1946), PP. 164, x66. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
(New York: Macmillan, 1975), P. 120. Ibid., p. 121: "The action of Pity will
live forever; but the passion of Pity will not." See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa
Theologiae, 1, 3, 1; Summa contra Gentiles, 1, 0, 5, on God as purely active.
C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, pp. 85-88. C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p.
152. Ibid., p. 153. Milton, Paradise Lost, book 1, line 262. "St. Alfonso
Liguori, Preparations for Death, ed. Rev. Eugene Grimm (Baltimore, Md.: John
Murphy & Co., 1926). Romans 6:7. C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York:
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955), pp. 229, 237. St. Augustine, Confessions,
VIII, 8-9. 2 Corinthians 6: 1 o (KJV). 1 Corinthians 3:21, 23. Theologia
Germanica, LL C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 153. George MacDonald in
C. S. Lewis, ed., George MacDonald: An Anthology (New York: Macmillan, 1978),
p. i ig (no. 287). Gabriel Marcel, Being and Having, trans. Katherine Farrer
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1951), PP. 137, 237. C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
(New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1957), p- 279. C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 197o), P. 216. C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, p.
107. Cf Martin Ebon, The Evidence for Life after Death (New York: New American
Library, 1971), P. 112. C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, PP. 360-64; The
Great Divorce, p. 107. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace,
1957), P. 147. 1 Corinthians 13:12. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1,
1, 5 ad i. Matthew 17:2; Revelation 3:5, 18; 7:9; 19:8- Martin Hoeidegger, On
the Way to Language, trans. Hertz (New York: Harper & Row, 197 1), P. 8 Luke
8:17. Bruce Palmer, Of Orc-Rags, Phials, and a Far Shore: Visions of Paradise
in The Lord of the Rings (Kansas City, Mo.: T-K Graphics, 1976), p. 25. St.
Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III (Supplement), 91, 5 C. S. Lewis, That
Hideous Strength, P. 378. Psalm 36:6. Revelation 2m. C. S. Lewis, The
Problem of Pain, pp. 138-39. C. S. Lewis, Miracles, P. 78. Psalm 90:5-6. If
we are "like grass", and we are raised, grass can be raised too. Genesis 1:28.
Revelation 14:3. Plato, Ion, 533c-35c; Isadore of Seville, Etymologiae, bk.
111, chap. 15. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
1977), P. 25; C. S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew (New York: Macmillan, 1955),
chap. 9. Martm Heidegger, "Holderlin and the Essence of Poetry" in Existence
and Being, trans. Ralph Manheim (Chicago: Regnery, 1967), pp. 28 1, 283-84;
"The Nature of Language", On the Way to Language. George MacDonald in C. S.
Lewis, ed., George MacDonald: An Anthology (New York: Macmillan, 1978), p. 113.
Ibid., p. 19. Revelation 11:1 Plotinus, Enneads, 1, 6, 8; Raymond Moody,
Life after Life (New York: Bantam, 1976), p. 52. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
(New York: Dodd, Mead, 1957), PP.298-99. E. E. Reynolds, The Field Is Won: The
Life and Death of St. Thomas More (Milwaukee, Wisc.: Bruce, 1968), pp. 265-66.
Henri Cormier, The Humor of Jesus, trans. David Heiman (New York: Alba, 1977).
Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, trans. M. C. Lee (New York: Harper &
Row, 1966). John 8:7. Matthew 7:3. Matthew 6:29 (KJV). Matthew 6:27. John
5:39. John 18:38. John 3:10. Raymond Moody, Life after Life (New York:
Bantam, 1976), pp. 64 -73, 156; Reflections on Life after Life (New York:
Bantam, 1977), pp. 29-40; Philip Swihart, At the Edge of Death (Downers Grove,
Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1978), pp. 60-63. 2 Corinthians 4:17. "Like Alyosha
in Dostoyevski's The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett (New York:
Vintage Books, 1955), part 1, bk. 1, chap. 4, P. 18. C. S. Lewis, Letters to
Malcolm (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964), P. 93. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Kreeft, Peter. "Fourteen Questions about Heaven." Chapter 2 in Everything You
Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven But Never Dreamed of Asking (Ignatius Press:
San Francisco, 1990), 27-50.
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
Peter Kreeft has written extensively (over 25 books) in the areas of Christian
apologetics. He teaches at Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. Peter
Kreeft is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Copyright 1990 Ignatius Press
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